ATP Masters 1000Roger FedererRome Masters

Federer Defeats Zverev 6-3 7-5 in Rome Opener

Roger Federer's latest comeback is underway and he got the better of Alexander Zverev 6-3 7-5 in the opening match of the day at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. There was much speculation about Fed's participation and the fact he was scheduled at midday raised even more questions but the Swiss took to the court to record his 1,070 match win as a professional.

This match was the Fed's first since losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Monte Carlo in early April but he was able to shake off the rust and produce the all court tennis required to win through comfortably in 87 minutes. He'll now face Dominic Thiem in the third round who defeated Joao Sousa in straight sets.

Quick Match Recap

Federer vs Zverev Rome 2016

Zverev won the toss and elected to receive. Roger then kicked things off with a love hold before Zverev held to 30 to level. After holding to love for 3-2 the Swiss created his first break point at 30-40, sealing it with a drop shot return of serve. The break was consolidated to 15 for 5-2 and Fed created set point on the Zverev serve in game 8 which he couldn't convert. One break was plenty though as he served out the first set 6-3.

Set 2 started like the first with Federer moving up an early break to lead 2-1. This time however he couldn't consolidate as the German broke back. The scoreboard stayed level until 5-5, where after a super quick love hold Federer finally took his 4th break point of game 11 to lead 6-5 and went onto serve it out 15. Allez!

Match Stats

  R. Federer A. Zverev
Aces 1 4
Double Faults 0 2
1st Serve % 56% 60%
1st Serve Points Won 27/33 (82%) 26/43 (60%)
2nd Serve Points Won 18/26 (69%) 15/29 (52%)
Break Points Saved 1/2 (50%) 6/9 (67%)
Service Games Played 11 10
1st Return Points Won 17/43 (40%) 6/33 (18%)
2nd Return Points Won 14/29 (48%) 8/26 (31%)
Break Points Won 3/9 (33%) 1/2 (50%)
Return Games Played 10 11
Winners 25 13
Unforced Errors 20 25
Net Points Won 15/20 11/20
Total Service Points Won 45/59 (76%) 41/72 (57%)
Total Return Points Won 31/72 (43%) 14/59 (24%)
Total Points Won 76/131 (58%) 55/131 (42%)

Shot of the Match

Thoughts on the Match

Federer Backhand Flick Rome 2016

After not knowing whether Federer would step on court today things turned out pretty well as he played a very smart match; taking Zverev off the baseline constantly with slice and drop shots which completely disrupted his rhythm. Zverev will camp out there all day if he's allowed to but Roger mixed it up and ended points quickly to come through the match without ever really being tested. I also liked how he varied his return position in virtually every game which again put Zverev out of his comfort zone on serve, not knowing whether Fed was going to take it early or give himself more time to take a big swing.

The one question I have is – did Fed come in with that set gameplan or did he just play in a very kind of relaxed way as he had zero expectation and didn't want to over exert himself? The dropper is sometimes a desperation shot when you're out of ideas, but Fed was using it virtually every game to just kill points off after 1 or 2 shots. I'm not sure really, maybe both. He did look to be playing with some caution and in his post match presser he said he's unsure if he will play against Thiem tomorrow as he's ‘taking it practice by practice'. From what I've read he only gave the green light on today's match after his warm up so it's all very much up in the air. I'd guess he's somewhere around 75-80% fit but a little bit worried about going full tilt in case it flares up again and jeopardises Roland Garros or even some of the grass events. At least after today he has an idea of where his games at after another extended period out of competition post Monte Carlo so it's really been win – win regardless of what happens next. I'm just happy we have the man who is going to make tennis great again back playing 🙂

Predictions vs. Thiem

Federer Thiem

Next up is Thiem who saw off Sousa easily in straight sets. Roger crushed the Austrian in their first meeting earlier this year in Brisbane but things have changed quite a lot since then. Thiem has pedigree on clay and he's match tough, Federer on the other hand hasn't really factored on the surface since 2012 and doesn't have many matches in his legs. With that in mind it's tough to see how this one goes; the one thing Thiem needs is time on his shots – something which Roger isn't going to give him much of. Zverev was rushed quite frequently today so if Fed takes it early I can see Thiem having to defend quite often which isn't where he wants to be. If that happens we'll probably see something similar today but if Thiem can get the first big strike in then he'll be tough to beat. If he plays I'll pick Fed in 2.

Anyway – let me know what you thought of the match and do you think Fed will play tomorrow? It looks set to be another last minute decision.


Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or writing about tennis I play regularly myself and have a keen interest in tactics, equipment and technicalties of the sport.

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      1. Just lucky. Was looking for fans to worry with me about Fed’s overall fitness… especially with the FO so soon…

  1. I only watched last 3 games and was wondering why he was trying drop-shots so many times, your post gives better picture….

    Agree that he has fair chance to win against Theim if he decides to play, Hopefully he does that…

  2. It is wonderful to see Roger back again and he did look good .He really mixed it up and played good tennis .Lets hope he recovers ans brings his magic in full strength.
    Btw the FO outfit looks nice .Roger looks great in blue!

  3. It seems to me that Roger is not his usual self in the service department. He appears to be not going through his usual ‘full service motion” if I can call it that and has quickened/simplified his serve. Quite apparent is his lack of arch when executing his second serve. It has to be his back injury which also explains why the uncertainty of playing the next match.

    Whatever it is I wish Roger the best! If not Rome , then hopefully he will be fully recovered in Roland Garros.

    1. Yeah I don’t think he has as big a knee bend. But he didn’t have many problems serving the top spin serve. Guess we’ll find out more if he plays a top returner. Zverev takes huges cuts so more prone to errors on the return.

  4. Thanks Jonathan for such a nice report, marked by your delight about the return of Roger’s enjoyable varied play. He surely still seems to perform effortless. The lack of ambitious expectations might have had nice impact this time.

  5. Fed certainly looked pretty good for a guy that isn’t at full health. He was moving pretty well so unless something happens between now and the match vs Thiem I’d assume he’s going to play.

  6. Nice movement on display in the hot shot you refer to in the first game of set 2 – moving both forward & back, & side to side. Zverev did a good job getting some of those earlier shots back, too. Saw someone suggesting that Fed was playing him like he would play Del Potro.

    I’m tempted to liken this to his 1st DC match after the WTF disaster in 2014, when he didn’t play full out against Gael in his first match. Then the next day in his next match he was back like a fiend.
    However – that was less than a week between his being “unable to move” (at WTF) and playing a match. This is over a week since his decision to pull out @ Madrid, & he’s still … at least TALKING like he’s moving gingerly, even if it doesn’t LOOK it. So… is it worse than we know? Yet he specifically said WTF was the worst it (the back) had ever been. So… is it the combination of concern about the back and the knee? Of course, the DC situation was also different in that he knew he had lots of rest time right afterwards, whereas here he’s headed into a packed part of the season.

    I’m hoping that he’ll gain confidence from the fact that he DID come out there pretty well today. Agree that his serve is not at full execution, and he himself said he was “far away” from his best; though actually to the extent lowered expectations allow him to play freely, that could be a good thing. I’m with him about not taking risks at this point – personally, I’ve found I’m kind of attached to the extension of the consecutive GS tourneys record!

    1. Thinker, you’ve expressed my thoughts almost exactly! I was confused about the length of time this was lasting, remembering his comments about the WTF/DC and remembering the DC match against Monfils, too. (But don’t forget, he actually told Luthi during the match against Gasquet that he thought Stan should go and warm up, because he had doubts about being able to get the job done, so maybe there were still niggles). I guess it’ll all depend on whether he seizes up overnight or not – I don’t mind whether he plays or not, provided that he doesn’t do himself any more damage.

      I have to admit, I *have* also wondered at times whether there might not be a psychosomatic element to some of this. After all, he’s managed pretty much injury-free for getting on for a couple of decades, but now the body *has* let him down, perhaps there’s a natural tendency to be rather cautious, and possibly even over-sensitive, to any niggles (she says, having had problems trusting her own knee in the past). After all, he’s not used to having to come back from injury in the way that some people are.

      1. Ah, right, I had forgotten about Stan-should-go-warm-up.

        You know what also occurs to me -he’s good friends with Tommy Haas, who’s been knocked out of the game entirely for long periods of time, more than once.
        I think he’s very conscious that injuries can keep you off match courts for a really long time; and as he reminded us today, he just loves being on that match court. I think he’s really focused on looking at the big picture and maximizing the total amount of match court time he’s got left- whatever that may turn out to be.

  7. Edberg advised him ‘play more matches’ to keep the back loose. Fed’s been off -court all that time with knee rehab, and illness so in a way, this was bound to happen. If he can just keep playing, I trust we will see him back to full flowing form.
    He looked fantastic today though- who’d have guessed how he really felt from that beautiful display?

  8. Welcome back Jonathan! Well I agree the serve not really back yet but he seemed happy with his match outcome so onwards!
    Thiem trickier than Zverev, fitter, faster and with a heavier shot. If Fed plays then hopefully he’ll be as relaxed as today, quick rallies and fast to the net… Win or lose, great to see Rog out think and out play the next big thing today! Goat!

  9. ‘the man who is going to make tennis great again back playing’ 😆 now *this* we can agree on Jonathan! Brilliant summary. I thought on the whole Feds was moving very well – that lunge for the sweet backhand at the net made me think that perhaps his back wasn’t too bad, but he played a very clever tactical game and was very relaxed which has got to be a good thing. The only thing I noticed was that he was half-bending, or a gentle bend at the knees for the serve, which is indicative of his stated caution. Overall an excellent match and it was so good to see him back. I’d love to see him play another match of course, so long as he feels his body can take it. Allez Roger! 🙂

      1. Is that *including* the AO, Jon? I only saw the SF against Novak, where he was definitely below par.

  10. I was actually so convinced that Roger wasn’t going to be playing that I didn’t even bother checking in – plus I was thinking we were still on Spanish time, not in Italy! By the time I’d realised my mistake he was a set and a break up, and as soon as I checked up on him he started doing worse!

    Anyway, wishing him healthy as soon as possible – it’s been dull without him.

      1. I thought Spain was on the same time zone as UK. Or at least I didn’t until I realised how seemingly late the Madrid final started. Was I wrong?

      2. This is what happens when stupid ATP site redesign gets rid of the oh-so-useful dual clocks showing the time where you are and the time where the tourney is 🙁

  11. Not bad match considering his condition, playing dropper was good, looked like he had a game plan. Hopefully he will recover soon, back injuries always tricky and recovery can be either fast or slow. Hope it doesn’t derails his SW19 quest

  12. Agree on all and share the worry, wishing him to care. Reading about longtime inflammation, in back and elsewhere, sometimes flaming up. Could have a long connection with his Mono illness long ago. Of course it has impact psychological, and vice versa. Still reading about it!

      1. No. Don’t forget he won his first Slam title with a bad back during the tournament! Plus he had it as a teenager.

  13. Great writeup and really thoughtful comments inspired by a far better than expected showing by Fed v Zverev. Match play rehab and keeping in touch with the Tour seems to be a sensible strategy and maybe playing Thiem is worth a try too but given the back and knee issues and flaring possibilities maybe strengthening out of view is wiser in the lead up to RG.

  14. Now this is one thing that will never cease to amaze, and I’m merely stating the obvious: even closing in on the veteran age, and with all those physical upsets, etc, when the mind is there, Roger does not give the slightest chance to these young guns who are at the top (or very near) their physical peak. That says a lot about how the game can be about much more than the unidimensional baseline bashing that has become the standard. But I don’t see anyone willing to take the torch in the near future.
    Curiously enough, ND and Nadull seem to struggle a bit more than Roger when they face youngsters, as if they do not have the same adjustment capability.

    1. Zverev is only a teenager, he’s way off his physical peak…

      I agree on Fed always keeping the young guns at bay but it’s the reverse. The reason Djoker and Nadul will meet more resistance from the young guns is because they play very similar to 99% of the tour. So it’s not like the youngster will be facing something alien – they’ll have played similar game style opponents for years. But not at that level of consistency or quality.

      Whereas Fed’s natural game is very different to almost everyone – so it’s rare they will have much experience playing someone who takes it early, presses constantly and mixes it up. So it’s not so much about Djoker and Nadal lacking adjustment capability, it’s the young guns never handling that type of ball Fed produces.

      1. Good point! It looks that Fed is doomed to be the lone “alien” until he retires… That’s unfortunate for the game.
        I mean: every now and then we get a few glimpses, as in last Munich final where Kohlschreiber and Thiem put on an interesting match, but last night Kohlschreiber was powerless against a Nadal playing 1 km behind the baseline (I only watched the last half of set #2, so I’m making assumptions). That final game was depressing: leading 40-0, Kohl got broken and packed his stuff.

  15. It pains me even to think of a slam tournament without Federer in it. I know it will of coures have to happen eventually, but *not* through injury. Still, if it has to be, it has to be 🙁

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