Stunning start to his title defence from Roger as he dominated Denis Istomin 6-2 6-2 to make serene progress into the next round in just 58 minutes.
No doubt if you were anything like me you weren't quite sure what to expect after the disappointing loss in Dubai, of course I knew Roger wasn't losing to Istomin but I wasn't sure about his level of play or serving form. As it turned out I needn't have worried as it was a completely clinical performance with every aspect of his game clicking from the word go.
Roger was imperious on serve throughout and still found some time to conjure up some moments of genius despite only only dropping 4 points on serve and breaking twice in each set.
1st Set – Federer Dominates
Swiss Masterclasses very often begin with a break of serve in the opening game and Federer didn't disappoint on that front as he broke Istomin's serve immediately. That was soon backed up with a breezy hold and I think most Fed fans knew we were in for a little bit of a show.
2-1 became 3-1 in 59 seconds, insane really considering the likes of Djokovic and Nadal take that long in between points, and Roger can win 4 points in that same amount of time.
The set was wrapped up when Istomin dropped his serve again to slip 4-1 behind and Roger served out the set comfortably to take it 6-2; hitting a couple of GOAT level drop shots in the process. Whenever he's playing the drop shot (and they're coming off) you know he's in a confident mood.
2nd Set – Roger Federer Serving Display
The key to Roger's game these days is the serve, if that's not firing he finds it tough to cross the line against the top guys. It hasn't looked great in his past 4 or 5 matches but against Istomin and in the second set especially it was in devastating form.
Much like the first set Roger got an early break to lead 2-1, followed it up with a love hold and after that it was all over as he broke again at 5-3 to seal the deal 6-2 6-3. Rather amazingly he didn't drop a point on serve throughout the entire second set and made 88% of first serves. GOAT statistics.
It felt good from the start and was able to maintain that level of play, I never thought he got into the match at all. That gives you obviously even more confidence.
peRFect Tennis Shot of the Match
Hard to pick out just one shot in this match, but this one just shows how sweetly Roger was hitting the ball, the sound off the racket throughout the match and on this forehand especially was so crisp:
Video removed 🙁
Thoughts on the Match
Obviously it's important not to get ahead of ourselves here and start suggesting Roger's a lock for the title after the way he started but this was an extremely encouraging start. Every angle of his game was dialled in; serve, forehand, backhand, point construction, shot selection, you name it, it was working extremely well.
As to why it was such a marked improvement from Rotterdam and Dubai I'm not sure maybe he's practised hard, he feels at home on the Indian Wells court and likes how the balls fly in the thin desert air or perhaps he just plays better in front of the twins 🙂
Of course this is only Istomin, who isn't the toughest player to encounter in a first round but he does have a reasonably big game so for Roger to make him look completely average and never give him a look in was very pleasing.
When Roger wins 32 of 36 points on serve, make 72% of first serves and converts 4 of 7 break points then I don't think he loses a match to anyone on tour. The main thing now is to take this form into his next match and to try and maintain it right up until the business end of the tournament where he'll likely be squaring off against the likes of Nadal, Berdych and Djokovic or Murray. It's a tough run in but if he can strike the ball as well as he did against Istomin then the matches are on his racket.
Predictions vs. Ivan Dodig
Next up for Roger is Croatian Ivan Dodig who beat Roger's Rotterdam conqueror Julien Benneteau in straight sets.
Dodig has quite a big game and will definitely play attacking / gung ho type tennis. He's capable of upsets having beaten Nadal at the Rogers Cup in Montreal a couple of years back so he's not to be under estimated but I think Federer will get through this one problems at all based on his performance vs Istomin.
They've never played each other before so it's heading somewhat into the unknown for Federer but like all his matches serving well will be key. If he can take care of his own service games without too much hassle then he should be able to play aggressively in his return games and be the player who dictates most of the plays.
I've not seen a lot of Dodig but I figure he's only going to play well when he's the one controlling the rallies, no way he beats Federer with a defensive style of game so I think 6-4 6-2. Allez les Suisse!