Hey all, another routine match for Roger as he defeated Ivan Dodig 6-3, 6-1 to move easily into the fourth round. Not by any means his greatest performance and he was flattered a little bit by the scoreline but he was the better player over all and deserved to move into the last 16 where he will meet Stan Wawrinka.
Although the second set ended in a breadstick it wasn't all plain sailing and there was a slight concern at 4-1 where Roger clearly tweaked his back and was unable to serve with any real force.
He was quite lucky to be honest that it was so late in the set and Dodig was choking up at every possible opportunity. A smarter player would have put as many balls back in play as he could to test Roger's movement but he made a bucket load of errors and continued to serve double faults. Anyway we'll talk about that shortly.
First Set – Sunset Causes Problems
Unlike the Istomin match Roger started pretty sluggishy against Dodig having to save 3 break points in the very first game, he wasn't really into the groove on serve and his ground strokes weren't zipping off the surface like they were during Saturday's match.
I think the conditions early in the first set didn't help Federer's game either, the court was half in shade and the sun was very low reflecting off the seats making it quite hard to pick the ball. This clearly effects a players timing and shot preparation as you see the ball later and can't commit to the shot or get setup as quick as you would like.
It was actually Dodig who started quite brightly, he's known as an attacking player and he lived up to his name going for everything. Roger was wise to that though and wasn't backing off either in the rallies, sticking close to the baseline and not wanting to give up any sort of advantage.
At 4-3 the wheels came off though for the Croat, he served back to back double faults to give Roger an almost undeserved break of serve that he took full advantage of serving out the set 6-3.
It was quite a bad choke from Dodig really, almost out of nowhere his serve deserted him in a really important part of the set, if not the match. Although, who's complaining 😛
Second Set – Federer's Back Problems
With the sun now behind the stand the court was fully in the shade and Roger performed much much better in the second set. He broke Dodig in the first game, held comfortably and then had the all important double break donated to him by another Dodig double fault in a key moment. Poor really from the Croat who has Nadal on his list of scalps.
At 4-1 up fans had a brief moment of concern where Roger visibly tweaked his back and started rolling his first and second serve in. He held though as Dodig played mindless tennis and then completely teed off in the final game going for winner off every shot to give himself match points where you guessed it, Dodig double faulted to bow out 6-3 6-2.
It was a tough day, Ivan played really well and I struggled early on in the first few games. Then I got a bit of a break at the end of the first set, started to play better. In the last couple of games Ivan didn't play so well and I was able to take advantage of it. It was a really good win for me.
Point of the Match
Turning defence into attack in the blink of an eye GOAT
Thoughts on the Match
Overall I thought the match was a routine performance, no real highlights or signs he was really at his best but considering he didn't play that great it couldn't have been any easier.
Dodig played well in patches but when it got to the crunch moments he folded like a cheap tent and that was that. Roger could almost put his newly built house in the Alps on Dodig serving a double fault on a break point it was that predictable.
Up until his back went I thought Roger served pretty well and for most of the second set he was striking the ball really nicely so we can't really ask for more. In fact Federer probably deserves some praise for polishing off the match when he did, after the back pain he was in a rush to get off court so decided to hit big on every ball, it was quite fun to watch actually and it paid off.
Is Federer's Back a Problem?
As I mentioned above at 4-1 Roger clearly felt something in his back that caused him either pain or real concern as he totally tied up on serve. He went from really going for it to just rolling it in and looked like he was in some kind of discomfort. He was ok in the rallies after so it's clearly the service motion that causes it, my theory is the back only really hurts on serve and immediately after but a couple of shots into a rally it recovers quite quickly.
Is it a concern? I'd say yes, a little bit. It's a recurring issue, and always has been to an extent but more so this year which is worrying as it's not going to help his cause should he play any of the top guys. The most important thing is though I don't really think it's an injury per se, more just a back problem that he has to manage. It's not like a muscle strain that can heal in a couple of weeks or keep you out for months, it's a recurring problem that just has to be dealt with as and when.
I had something similar when I used to play cricket where one day after bowling a few overs I could barely walk never mind get into a delivery stride. As soon as I stopped bowling, stood in the field for 2 mins I was fine and could run around easily and dive without problem, but as soon as I tried to bowl again it came back. The answer was just to keep warm, do some core work and it was only occasionally a problem. I think that's the same with Roger, it's not muscle related I don't think but probably something joint based that flares up. It almost felt like a trapped nerve when I was bowling so who knows if Roger has something similar.
As for Roger's own thoughts on his back he spoke about it in his presser and said the following:
No, no. I mean, I finished the match, I did treatment, you know, just to make sure you do all the right things at the right time.
That's what you should do anyway all the time: You should do treatment right after your matches and not go to press first. You get in the habit. You go to press first, get rid of that, even though it's not the right thing to do.
So I'm not too worried. I have gone through it so many times where you feel a little tweak. You might play next day; now this time around I have a day off, extra time.
Happened during Grand Slams, during tournaments, in practice. So, you know, it's just something, you know, you learn to deal with. And as long as I keep on playing, it's all right. After this I also know I have a longer break to recover, so from that standpoint I'm not worried at all.
He sounds quite relaxed about it all, as he always is so I guess as fans we just have to wait and see how it holds up against Wawrinka.
Predictions vs. Wawrinka
Next up for Roger is his fellow countryman Stanislas Wawrinka who's in quite a good run of form right now. Roger leads the H2H 12-1 and it's usually a great match up for him both in term of game styles and the mental aspect of tennis, that's mainly because Stan is always in Federer's shadow and never quite believes he can beat him which of course works hugely in Fed's favour.
The last time they met was in Shanghai last year where Roger was burnt out from his long season and gave Stan plenty of chances to win the match. As usual Stan failed to do so and ended up losing 6-0 in the third; it was another mental scar for Stan really, wasting a golden opportunity to get a win against the GOAT.
To be fair to Wawrinka though he has started this year quite promisingly, he should have beaten Djokovic at the Australian Open losing in a 5 set thriller and he made the final in Buenos Aires last month losing out to Clay Tournament Vulture David Ferrer.
In terms of Indian Wells he's made steady progress, he did drop a set to Wayne “Substantial Assistance” Odesnik but he beat Lleyton Hewitt comfortably in the last round to set this tie up.
The match is clearly on Roger's racket though so if he plays freely without any sort of back problems hampering him then I see him getting the job done in straight sets. He knows Stan's game inside out and how to cause him problems so although Stan is a big hitter in form I'm not sure he has enough to win the match. 6-4 6-4.