Roger Federer's Shanghai campaign got off to an almost hiccup free start as he defeated Andreas Seppi 6-4 6-3 to move into the third round where he'll meat Gael Monfils.
It was Roger's first competitive match since his loss to Robredo at the US Open so it was difficult to know what to expect from him or where his game was at. As it turned out it was pretty much what I thought would be the case – confidence still low but movement and overall game much much better.
Seppi is a tricky guy to face early in a tournament (3 career titles, career high ranking 18) so it was obvious Roger had to play reasonably well to get the win and fortunately he managed to take his chances when it mattered.
Not quite vintage but I think there were some positives to take from this and there were a couple of things that happened in the match that should give him confidence which I'll cover shortly.
Quick Match Analysis
The match actually started well for Roger, holding to 15 but after Seppi held his first service game he then broke the Federer serve despite the Swiss hitting an immense volley at 15-40 to stave off the first break point only to double fault on the very next. Disappointing.
I realised during the match that saving a break point with an immense shot only to play the next one poorly has been a recurring theme this last year or so, today it happened when he got broken.
And we also saw it on the 2 match points Stakhovsky had at Wimbledon (laser guided pass followed by timid backhand), the set point against Tsonga at the French where he hit the backhand flick to save 1 break point, the tie break vs. Berdych at the USO in 2012 where he hit a full stretch volley, the World Tour Finals tie break vs. Djokovic after he hit the whipped passing shot from behind him.
The list is endless and they all followed the same pattern, the first big point is played like a GOAT but the next big point he wilts and loses. Strange really, almost like he's drained and not ready for the next one so quickly.
Anyway despite dropping serve he was able to respond quickly taking his first break point chance at 15-40 with a brilliant smash to level at 3-3. Of course he found himself in more trouble in the next service game but saved 2 break points before holding.
Again at 4-4 Federer slipped down love 30 but found 2 back to back aces to move into a 5-4 lead. He was then able to take advantage of a Seppi double fault at 15-15 before breaking to take the set 6-4. The rally at 15-40 was a great mental victory for Federer here too as it showed his excellent defensive and offensive abilities. He had Seppi to thank for giving him an opportunity to take the first set but winning it was all his own doing which definitely helped his confidence.
The first set was always going to be key and winning it both helped Roger's mindset and clearly frustrated Seppi who had plenty of chances. This showed when Roger got the key break at 1-0 in the 2nd with more adept net play. Again he had to come from behind to consolidate but did so convincingly winning a key rally at 15-30 to move into a 3-0 lead.
By this point Roger was finally getting into the groove where he is able to play without thinking too much which of course brings out his best and he got himself in a position to serve for it at 5-3. There were always going to be question marks over whether he could serve it out without being too shaky and it didn't look great at 0-30 but he then found a 2nd serve ace and another ace to make 30-30 before finally sealing it on his second match point to take it 6-4 6-3.
Not the cleanest match from the stats, but Roger actually hit 17 unforced errors in the first set so was able to clean up his act in the second set. Stats don't matter though here, the win was the key thing and he was able to get it.
Point of the Match
Thoughts on the Match
Overall I'm very happy with this win, I said prior to the match I was looking for 2 things – movement and confidence; and I thought he delivered on both those things. He moved very well throughout the match which clearly helped him hustle some important points which has to be done against a quality opponent like Seppi.
The way he moves to his forehand side is always an indicator of fitness and I thought he looked pretty sharp. I don't think the footwork is quite there just yet but it's not too big a concern, there were a couple of times he got his legs in a tangle but was able to recover quickly and maintain his balance which is probably testament to the work he's put in since the US Open loss.
As for confidence it's definitely still lacking as we saw when he got broken in the first set but 2 things happened that will definitely be a boost; the first is that he was pretty clinical with his own break point chances and the second that he served the match out first time of asking.
I was praying that he had to serve to win the second set / match as breaking serve like he did in the first just wouldn't have been the same for him. He needed that feeling of closing it out himself which I think will have helped him.
No doubt some fans were expecting Roger to crush Seppi due to the 9-0 H2H but I think anyone near the Top 50 would have been a tricky opponent today, it's not easy coming back from a ridiculous loss at the US Open, playing in front of an expectant crowd and with Nadal watching all adds to the pressure which he handled well.
It was a big maybe shall I say 20 minutes going up a set and a break, really started to feel comfortable. Even though it remained tough, Seppi did a good job of hanging around. That's the kind of first round match you want in this particular situation I'm in right now.
Predictions vs. Monfils
Next up for Roger is one of the biggest entertainers on tour Gael Monfils who beat Richard Gasquet's conqueror Vasek Pospisil. Roger leads the H2H 6-1 so on paper this should be an easy match but with Monfils you just never know.
He is inconsistent, his game goes on and off like a light switch but when at his best he's very dangerous. The one thing Roger has to be wary of is Monfils's court coverage as he's very difficult to hit through so it will take some nice controlled aggression from Roger to see this one out.
I think coming into the net will be a profitable tactic and he looked to execute that today against Seppi to there's no reason why he won't vs Monfils. I see Roger getting it done in straights, the match today should surely have boosted his confidence and I don't see Monfils as the type of opponent Roger will doubt himself against too much.
I think they both respect each other too based on their reactions at the net in previous matches and Roger usually plays very well against players he genuinely likes on tour for some reason. I'll go for 6-4 6-4. It could go 3 but I think Fed will improve on today's performance.