Well what a weekend! Seen as though I didn't have time to write up the Nadal match before the Isner one I'll be combining both of them into this post.
It was a dream weekend as far as Federer fans are concerned, Roger beat Nadal in great fashion and then went onto win a record 4th Indian Wells title against John Isner. peRFect.
The Fedal Match on Saturday
After the loss to Nadal in Australia and the slow courts of Indian Wells I doubt many Fed fans were truly expecting Roger to win here against his nemesis.
But win he did in an emphatic performance beating the rain to come through in straight sets 6-3 6-4 to setup a final against John Isner who had previously knocked out World Number 1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic.
The match started like every Fedal match seems to – Roger started strong, he saved 2 break points in his opening service game and then soon raced into a 3-0 lead breaking Nadal easily. In typical fashion he was broken back and Nadal levelled at 3-3.
At 4-3 Roger played a great game that featured ball striking right from the top drawer, he was ripping backhands for fun and maneuvering Nadal around the court at will. He broke and then served out the set to love, hitting an exquisite drop shot on game point. Oh and he was also 2/2 on break points :-O
The second set was only more of the same from Roger, in fact he was probably hitting the ball better than the first. Tactically and more importantly he was mentally sound, he made the right decisions, took risks when he needed to and never let Nadal get on top in the rallies.
He was quickly into a 3-1 lead that soon became 5-2. The double break was a virtual match point in my mind, with one break Nadal is always in with a chance because he will fight till the death. This was proved when he broke Roger when he was serving for it but I just had a feeling Roger would get the job done second time of asking.
Nadal was his typical self at 5-4, leaving for a toilet break to try and throw Roger mentally before he served for it. I thought this was pretty lame and just a typical Nadal gamesmanship tactic. How many times has he called a medical timeout before an important tie break? Or waited for an eternity between points? Roger would never employ such tactics and that's why I like him. He will always let his tennis do the talking and that's how it should be. Fortunately this time around Nadals tactics failed him, at 30-30 Roger had to defend like crazy to stay in the point after Nadal got a good reply on his second serve. He retrieved great from both wings and eventually drew the error from Nadal. It was pleasing to see Roger come out in top in one of these rallies, especially at such an important moment. Usually it is Roger doing the attacking and Nadal defending until Fed makes an error, but this time the role was reversed. Fitting.
On match point it started raining and play had to be stopped. It was pretty crazy really and I'm glad they didn't have to go off. I rightly said on Twitter play would resume and Fed would serve an ace to seal it, and guess what? He did just that.
There were so many positives to take from this match, Roger proved he can still beat Nadal, even after another painful defeat in Australia and really confirmed he's still at the top of tennis. Nadal is still very much in his prime yet it was Roger who looked younger on court and was pretty much able to dominate from start to finish.
I guess after this confidence boosting victory on a slow hard court against his arch rival it's up to Roger to turn up the heat and do the same against Nadal over 5 sets in a grand slam. It will be a tough ask as Nadal is a whole new animal over 5 but on how Roger played today I'm confident he can keep that up over a longer format. He just has to not get flustered and maintain clarity of thought. I know it's easier said than done but he actually has no reason to doubt himself. Surely that alone is enough to carry him over the finishing line.
I just had a good day,” Federer said. “[It was] another great match in tough conditions. We both expected rain in the match and it did rain a few times. I couldn't be more happy.
The Final Against Isner
After seeing off Nadal, Roger set up a final showdown with big serving American John Isner. Isner had earlier shocked the tennis world by beating Djokovic in 3 sets featuring 2 tie breaks. I was pretty sure Djokovic would win that but Isner had a great serving day and Novak wasn't able to play his best tennis.
As it turned out the final was very one sided, Federer is always a tough opponent but when he's coming off the back of a great victory and is confident he's even harder to beat.
I thought Isner would be tricky because of his serve but fancied Fed to come through in 3 sets, I didn't really think the Davis Cup loss to Isner would be a factor because a.) it's Davis Cup and b.) it was played on a surface that didn't bounce true and let Isners serve bounce to head height.
Roger played a pretty tidy match, I believe Isner had one chance to win the match and that was in the 3rd game, he held 3 break points but failed to take them. Largely due to Roger hitting solid 1st serves and dominating with his forehand and partly due to the American playing too passively. After holding from 15-40 I kinda knew the match would be Roger's. He gave a huge allez when he got to deuce so he too knew slipping down an early break against a server like Isner would be an uphill battle.
From there on Roger was dominant on serve, he didn't face another break point and returned great. The block return is so effective against big servers, it allows Fed to start the rally where against someone like Isner he becomes an instant favourite. He only lost 1 point on serve in the entirety of the second set and was able to hit solidly off both wings and not give Isner another sniff at breaking him.
When it all pays off after a bit of a scare early on in the week and you get the title and the emotions are going, it's a wonderful feeling,” he said. “I remember the days when I won three years in a row here, and I enjoyed myself over here.
Looking back at the week that was Indian Wells
As a Fed fan this was a dream week really, heading into the tournament I had little to no expectations. Roger hadn't won here since 2006 and the slowness of the courts made a win seem even more unlikely. Then seeing Roger ill in his first match against Kudla probably lowered my expectations even more so anything after that was just a bonus.
The highlight as you'd expect was watching him take down Nadal in straight sets. It's just another match that reinforces his GOAT credentials and somewhat lowers Nadals. Nadal hasn't won a title now since the French Open and hasn't won a Masters 1000 event off clay since 2009! Roger meanwhile has won 6 of his last 8 tournaments and is still playing unbelievable tennis at the age of 30.
I hope now he can kick on even further and take down slam number 17. He's heading in the right direction that's for sure and Wimbledon is my big hope.