ATP 500Roger FedererSwiss Indoors

Federer Sees Off Istomin Challenge in Basel

Action replay from last years encounter against Istomin here as Federer had to come from a set down to defeat the Uzbekistani 3-6 6-3 6-4. Not the most clinical display from Fed but he shook off an error strewn first set to play much cleaner tennis which eventually wore Istomin out.

Istomin was coming in off the back of a double breadstick victory against Janowicz but I had Fed nailed on to win this one in straights. However Istomin hadn't read the script as he played some tidy stuff in the first set to take it before Fed finally found his mojo at the St. Jakobshalle to take it in 3 sets and book his spot in the Quarter Finals.

Another good mental display from Fed really and a good example of his ability to stick around in matches when things aren't going swimmingly. Once Istomin's resistance began to fade Roger was able take charge of the match and the rest his history. Always good to see him find his game after a sluggish start before eventually reaching his desired level where he can crack out the well disguised dropshots and slices which ultimately took Istomin's legs away as he faded once the match went past the hour mark.

Quick Match Recap

Federer Serve Leg Drive

Roger won the toss and elected to receive. Istomin started confidently holding to 15 before Fed levelled things up in similar fashion.

At 1-2 Roger fired down an emphatic service hold to love but put his good work to waste in his next service game as Istomin broke to lead 4-2. Scrappy game from the Swiss. Fed had an immediate chance to get back on level terms but Istomin held on to forge a 5-2 lead before serving out the set to 15, taking it 6-3.

After a flat first set it was important Fed came out with a bit more intensity for the 2nd and he did so, holding to love to kick things off. Both players then traded back to back holds as Roger moved into a 3-2 lead. Here the Swiss got a look at 3 break points aided by Istomin playing a ridiculous tweener at 0-15. The Uzbek saved 2 but couldn't make deuce and Fed broke for 4-2. A love hold backed up the break and Fed served it out 1 game later to take the set 6-3.

By this point Istomin was looking dead on his feet and Roger had considerably more rhythm from the back of the court. Fed clearly realised he'd got the match under control too and began to toy with his opponent. Using slice and dropshots to keep Istomin running in circles. That strategy gave the Swiss break points at the start of the decider but he failed to convert. That frustrated him as he even came close to smashing a racquet after hitting 3 mishits in a row that landed on the baseline only to fail to take advantage by mis timing a backhand wide πŸ˜†

At 1-1 Fed then had more break points but again struggled to convert, finally doing so on his 8th break point of the set to take a 2-1 lead. Once he got the all important lead Fed just cruised home over the line, playing some sublime dropshots and drive volleys behind big first serves which was good to see. It looked like he was low on confidence and energy at the start of the match but it was clearly just the fact Muller gave him no rhythm in the previous round. Once he'd stuck around with Istomin enough he was back into the groove with some very stylish all court tennis. Istomin did well to hang in there for the remainder of the set and although he did have a break back chance at 2-3 Fed hit a sweet drive volley to wrong foot him before holding his next 2 service games to close it out 6-4 in the third.

Match Stats

  R. Federer D. Istomin
Aces 6 11
Double Faults 0 4
1st Serve % 62% 57%
1st Serve Points Won 40/44 (91%) 42/56 (75%)
2nd Serve Points Won 17/27 (63%) 21/42 (50%)
Break Points Saved 3/4 (75%) 10/12 (83%)
Service Games Played 14 14
1st Return Points Won 14/56 (25%) 4/44 (9%)
2nd Return Points Won 21/42 (50%) 10/27 (37%)
Break Points Won 2/12 (17%) 1/4 (25%)
Return Games Played 14 14
Winners 40 32
Unforced Errors 31 26
Net Points Won 23/32 7/9
Total Service Points Won 57/71 (80%) 63/98 (64%)
Total Return Points Won 35/98 (36%) 14/71 (20%)
Total Points Won 92/169 (54%) 77/169 (46%)

Thoughts on the Match

Come On Basel 2014

Another solid match from the GOAT and very similar to last years match vs Istomin. Once again Fed got off to a slow start but stuck around as Istomin's level dropped as the match wore on. Istomin looked to be running on fumes by the third set and Roger just took full advantage of it. Not great for a top 100 player to be struggling in a 3 setter on a quick-ish court but Fed's style of play often means his opponents have to cover a lot of court to stay in the point.

Although the scoreline replicates last years encounter one thing that's wildly different is Fed's level of play and after struggling for timing in the first set he got much better in the 2nd and 3rd sets. Things began to click on serve and his volleys were yet again a pleasure to watch; the peRFect mix of firm punches into the open court and deft touches to leave Istomin with no chance of getting a racquet on the ball. I won't get carried away and say he was quite at peak level but he has far too many shots in his locker to ever give Istomin the opportunity to play the match on his own terms.

The big turning point for me was Istomin opting to hit a tweener after Fed dug out two volleys on the stretch. It was 0-15 on the Uzbek's serve and he opted for a showboat shot that sailed long when he could have played a normal forehand. Brain dead tennis at this level and it cost him his serve.

I think had Istomin held there it would have been a much closer set but once Fed got the break he began to play more freely and seemed to have more time / rhythm from the back of the court. Istomin let the loss of his serve deflate him and you can't afford to do that against the top guys. Probably why he only has 1 win against a top 10 player in his career. He can keep a high level for short bursts but over the duration of a match he's too inconsistent to get it done.

Predictions vs. Dimitrov

Next up is Dimitrov who defeated Pospisil pretty comfortably 6-2 6-2. Fed leads the H2H 1-0 with their only previous encounter being right here in Basel last year. Again Fed wasn't playing great last October but he got the job done in straight sets against Dimitrov who was coming in off the back of a maiden title win in Stockholm.

Based on form I only see this match going one way and that's with Roger. We've been talking for years about a changing of the guard match occurring between these two but I don't think it happens here. If anything the gap has only widened in the last 12 months between them. Fed has improved his game whereas Dimitrov has been quite inconsistent. There's no doubt he has the flashy shots and bundles of talent but footwork and point construction wise he is way off the level of the likes of Fed, Djokovic, Nadal and Murray.

Fed in 2 sets. 7-5 6-4.


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. I reckon it will be 3 sets against Dimitrov. This guy is improving quite rapidly, definitely is capable of upsetting Federer.

    1. I think Fed’s level would have to drop for him to lose. Not impossible of course but he’s been playing well for a while now. Dimitrov hasn’t looked that good lately.

  2. Hope you’re right with the prediction this time Jonathan as I could hardly believe the improvement in Dimitrov against Pospisil compared to the previous match. I think Pospisil was a bit weary as he’d had two tough late night matches: I felt a bit sorry for him. I hasten to add that I agreed with your prediction re Feds, but Istomin did play a great first set, aided by some loose shots from Feds. I had no doubt that he would pull off the win, but I wish it had been more comfortable. Hope he comes fast out of the blocks tomorrow. πŸ™‚

    1. PS: Liked your twitter comment – no brown envelope in the locker for Istomin – do you think he’s offered same to Dimitrov?! πŸ™‚

    2. I didn’t watch any the Dimpops match. Pospisil is pretty poor though in pressure moments from what I have seen. Still backing Fed in deux.

      Brennwald would probably try anything to disrupt Fed!

  3. “error-strewn first set” – you pretty much said it there Jonathan. But as you also say good to see him able to hang in there even when things aren’t going his way (aNOTHer one in the net?!). He almost looked a half second slow to react to me, which left him flat-footed on some shots he might have been able to get to on another day. Maybe the screen doesn’t reflect that accurately.

    The crowd so clearly delighted with every beautiful shot (and there were some of those), and suffering with every shot into the net!

    Hope his sponsor obligations have calmed down & he can get some good rest ahead of the Dimitrov match. We saw better from him in Shanghai, & if he can bring that again I’m with you, Dimi doesn’t have the stuff to beat him yet.

    1. What sponsor stuff has he done this week? I haven’t really been keeping up with off court things really.

      Dunno about slow, I think he just lacked rhythm. Also he hit a lot more to Istomin’s BH in first set which is his stronger shot…

  4. What sponsorship obligations are those, Thinker? Is he overdoing it again?

    And I have to say, that was NOT a comfortable match to watch on live scores. I kept getting the nasty feeling Istomin wasn’t done yet, regardless of what you’d said about him.

    1. Don’t know specifically Alison, but there are always some, & sometimes there are more when he’s actually in Switzerland for a while – places like Jura where we know he went, but also Credit Suisse for example. We also know there’s a Moet & Chandon VIP suite at Basel – he’s already made at least one appearance there, don’t know if he’ll be expected to make more.

      1. Roger is a grown man. When sponsors pay you millions of dollars, he is going to have to appear somewhere.

    2. Ah right didn’t see this before I asked above. Yeah Jura, Lindt, Credit Suisse all home based sponsors.

      Thanks for pointing out the obvious Karen πŸ™‚ there’s me thinking Mirka could write him a note so he didn’t have to turn up.

  5. Another one to add to the books as great mental display this season. Feels like dejavu from last year huh? Doesn’t look like I’ll be getting to watch any of these matches though unless Roger makes the final seeing as the time difference is way too harsh. Judging from the highlights and your recap though (which comes in handy in times like these especially!), Istomin tried to hang with Fed until the end but it just wasn’t enough. Sometimes when these type of matches happen, I feel a tonne of fans on social media exaggerate the quality of Roger’s tennis and go as far to saying it’s a repeat of 2013. IMO Fed played a pretty decent match, three set matches are fine margins at times and you have to make sure you take your opportunities when they come. Fed turned his tactics around in the second set and the rest is history.

    Hoping your predictions are true on the Dimitrov front. I must say, when Grigor first emerged I was intrigued. But the guy is completely annoying right now. With Sharapova and the constant claim to be Fed’s progidy (the guy just signed up with Fed’s ex trainer and now Rolex I believe?) I don’t blame people for always comparing the two even though he says he’s over it. Kind of reminds me of Djoker a bit in the aspect of an attention seeker. Anyway, that aside, hope Roger gets the job done against this wannabe and gets closer to setting up that Nadal final. Speaking of Nadal, why is his scheduling far more favourable to Roger yet again- I’m sure Brennwald had a say in that…

    1. I don’t know why you are so annoyed by Dimitrov when Roger is the one bringing him into his inner circle. Dimitrov is represented by Tony Godsick. Dimitrov and Vivier working together along with the deal with Rolex are not coincidences. Roger is playing an exho with him at MSG next year before IW. It seems Roger is taking him under his wing. Roger is not insecure about Dimitrov, so why are Fed fans? Dimitrov actions dictate “he is not over” being comparing to Roger. Roger apparently likes Dimitrov and wants him to succeed, so Fed fans need to stop being annoyed by Dimitrov. With that being said, GO ROGER!

      1. I have nothing against Dimitrov coming into Roger’s inner circle whatsoever- if Fed likes the guy and they are friends, that’s fine, he must be a good guy I guess. I don’t really think Roger is taking him under his wing as you say though- they are of course rivals on the court.

        I don’t think you can really ask someone to stop being annoyed by someone though if that’s how they feel? I’m not threatened by Dimitrov’s presence in the game. It’s more about how he has generated a tonne of hype by his potential rather than what he’s actually achieved. And some of his tennis/PR stunts make me not take him seriously. That’s all to it.

    2. I really don’t think we can blame Dimitrov for that ‘baby Fed’ tag. It was Lundgren who coached both him and Federer who said of Dimitrov at age 17, ‘he is better than Federer’. Thereafter he carried the ‘baby Fed’ tag around like a millstone. I don’t think it did him any favours at all, and he has constantly tried to throw it off. There are some similarities in style – the serve perhaps – but I don’t think he consciously tries to mimic Federer. No wonder he was a bag of nerves when they played each other last year – every shot he took he could probably sense people trying to compare! So I completely agree with Karen – let’s give the guy a break.

      1. Read my comment above to Karen- it’s not entirely Dimitrov’s fault that he has been burdened with the constant similarities to Roger. Not at all. But let’s be honest. The only reason he’s as popular as he is, is because of Federer (and his personal life). Not because he has actually stepped outside his shadow. Let Dimitrov step up to the plate and earn it and then we will see if he is indeed better than Federer. I don’t believe Dimitrov’s style to Roger is even that similar, and the differences are accentuated even more when they play against each other.

      2. Fair enough Alysha, you’re right about the hype, and there’s no doubt it has been generated by the ‘baby Fed’ tag, and as you say, his relationship with Sharapova. He has got talent, but like you said he has got a very long way to go before he can be considered in any way a match for Federer. I think his coach Rasheed said at Queens that he was 25% there – so perhaps we need to listen to him!

    3. @Alysha yeah Fed showed he is smart out there to change it up. When Fed is thinking clearly he has the best tennis brain in the game. Maybe Nadal can rival him on that front too as he plays smart tennis when the chips are down. But those two are way above the rest.

      I’m not sold on Dimitrov yet either, nothing to do with Fed comparisons either, IMO he is flashy but that’s it really. Haven’t warmed to his on court style. I prefer Goffin or Thiem. Dimitrov is more about tweeners and diving around to please the crowd. Bit like Monfils but less of a clown.

      Fed comparison is old news. Bound to remain whilst they are still playing on tour. I’m guessing Godsick dictated the Dimitrov signing, easily one of the next cash cows of the game if he can win some big titles. No reasons for Fed to turn him away either.

  6. Wasn’t fun to watch until “anti-Istomin” kicked in. Lol, a good one, Jonathan πŸ˜€

    As one of commies said of Istomin, something like “Top 10 for one set”, never in doubt that Fed would prevail, but I thought he played tough, though not a great mover, is he? So glad Fed had the job done. “Important thing was to bounce back and get my teeth into match” – I like his great mental side this season!

    Dimi would never be a player as Fed as a whole. One day eventually the old would lose a match to the young but not just yet. I usually cheer for him because he’s in Fed’s circle but not in a match against our guy.

    1. Yeah gotta take a few Anti Istomin’s before you step on court πŸ˜†

      Yeah I agree with that, only 1 top 10 win in his career. He is a decent ball striker but clearly not that physically fit. I heard he nearly stopped playing after a car crash or something so could explain it. Done well to be ranked top 50.

  7. It’s a bit of a shame Federer and Dimitrov are only playing each other in Basel, the other big 3 have all played him in masters and majors. Came close a few times, notably at the Australian, Wimbledon and US open, but didn’t happen. I hope next year they’ll face off in at least 1 major and 1 masters event…at least! Melbourne would be a good start.

  8. What??? Nadal and Cilic have both pulled out of Paris? And Nadal doesn’t say, “due to health reasons like a dodgy appendix which I’ve been talking about for weeks now”, but “due to personal reasons”?????

    Cilic says he’s got a right arm injury. End-of-season body breakdown?

    Insanity. Ah, tennis.

    1. Yeah weird, rumour is he having his appendix AND/OR doping implant removed but cited personal reasons rather than operation. Who knows, but it makes for good headlines so I guess he helped journos out.

    2. I kept checking the ATP website for confirmation of Nadal and Cilic – still haven’t spotted the Cilic one, but if so, damn, that means Raonic will get in anyway. Am having another rethink of whether I want to bother going.

      1. Oh – and while Nadal is out of both Paris & London, Cilic is just out of Paris. Is that what you meant? Confused now…

  9. Hey Jon, I agree with you that Roger will beat Dimi, but in straights??? Nah, Dimi is not the nervous boy he was last year when he first faced Roger. He too is growing in confidence and becoming a good or great player. So, yes, Roger will definitely win, but I think in 3.
    When you see their matchpractises on YT, there is definitely some sort of young/old or master/student competition going on there. Roger who wants to show his “imitator” his place and Dimi who wants to show that he is or can be better than the man he is beeing compared too.
    Dimi may not have much weapons to choose from like Roger, but he also HAS weapons. I think he will give Roger a pretty tough time….
    I think Dimi can take losing to Rafa or Novak or Andy or anybody else, but when it comes to Roger…. I don’t know…. there is something brewing there. And Roger is no saint, he is playing his part in this competition very well (like he did with Sampras)….

  10. Anyone watching Rafa vs Coric?? Poor Brennwald…. tried everything to get Rafa (to win), even a joke easy draw and look what is happening πŸ™‚

    Rafa is trouble by Baby Rafa πŸ™‚

    1. Spot on Jonathan! Feds in two – better match than last year, but as you said, Dimitrov still hasn’t got enough for the Maestro!

    2. What a night eh Katyani – Nadal knocked out by Coric, ranked 123 – he’s making a habit of losing to those ranked over 100!! πŸ™‚ and our gorgeous champ playing a superb match winning in two – oh joy! So happy – now I’m going to have a large glass of wine… :)) :))

      1. Hey Slamdunk, a night where the Greatest Gift to Tennis loses and the Greatest Tennisplayer of All Time wins….. yep, those are the nights to remember πŸ™‚

      1. No no no Slamdunk, I was beeing sarcastic. Brennwald did all he could to make Roger lose and to make Rafa win and look how it is ending up in his face.

        I want Roger to win Basel 2014, STICK it in Brennwald’s face and only come back to play Basel when that loser is gone… How do you guys say it? To bite the hand that fed you…. Brennwald should have thanked the heavens for Roger, otherwise the Basel Tour would not have been this succesfull.

        Just a question. What if Roger would have lost? Who would have come to watch a SF or Final between Coric, Karlovic, Dimi and Goffin???

      2. Oh sorry Katyani – hahaha, egg on MY face as well as Brennwald’s! Yes, ‘bite the hand that feeds you’: very apt. To use another one, he should learn to know which side his bread’s buttered. The commies also keep mentioning the fact that Federer hasn’t got a contract so it’s clear they think Brennwald has committed a huge faux pas. Lucky for him that the home town tournament and the fans are the most important thing for Federer. There’s no way this little tournament would pull in the crowds without him and Brennwald wants to set his huge ego to one side, and make sure he gives Feds the treatment he deserves.

  11. Guess Roger is going to struggle against Dimi now. Isn’t that what usually happens when Rafa gets knocked out? Jonathan, do you want to alter your prediction?

    1. Hey Gaurav, for the ones who are keeping the score: This could and definitely would have been the 7th or 8th time this year that Roger would have beaten Rafa IF they had met……. The H2H……

  12. Well, I have to admit I’m gonna be pissed of if Fed doesn’t win this… Great match from the Fed.

    Glad to see the bull out of the season, until he sweeps the floor with everyone at AO 15…

    Onto semis and hopefully final πŸ™‚

  13. Sweep the floor with everyone at the Aussie Open Simon? Do you really believe that he will be so good? Really a good one from Fed. Hoping he will handle Ivo.

    1. Cakewalk draw in Paris. Murray, Ferrer, Djokovic all in the top half. Wawrinka/ Berdych semis, Raonic Quarters, Chardy, Fognini, Kaelovic for Federer. Doesn’t get better than this on paper.

      1. Interesting that Nadal called it quits. Looks like he only turned up to Basel for the hefty appearance fee.

  14. Did his job v Denis who is much underestimated but massively unfit! Was knackered by mid second set!
    Absolutely superb v Dimitrov. Like Jonathan, I picked Fed in 2 and boy did he deliver! Dimitrov has much to learn. Fed played so quickly, took Grigors time away, and his BH is still his weakness. Fed out drove him time and time again! Fantastic serving at key points. Massive second serve ace to save set point! Huge clutch tonight when needed and then ran atway with it!
    Am picking him in 2 tightish sets to beat Dr Ivo, and picking Goffin to beat Coric who simply had to keep the ball in play today. Rafa shld not hv played, and shld hv had this op after Shanghai. Only came toBasel to honour the 3 yr deal. He has failed to keep! Doesn’t care about WTF’s much and has his eye on getting ready for OZ open, although will be very short of match play…

    So looking at. Goffin v Fed final. Tricky. Plays like Simon ( kind of), backing Fed in everything this year!

    1. re Nadal – have seen some reports that he wanted to have the surgery immediately after Shanghai, but was told it wasn’t safe until the antibiotics had cleared out of his system.

      Not sure I had ever heard of such a thing. Any medical professionals on here?

      1. It could be because anaesthetic and strong antibiotics don’t mix. The fact is he shouldn’t have played and presumably only played in Basel because he’d already missed 2 out of the 3 years contracted. I’m just happy that the cheater’s out for the remainder of the year and we won’t have to listen to any of his excuses, nor the boring ‘will he/won’t he be playing’ that we’ve had to suffer of late.

    2. Well summed up Susie – agree with you on Dr Ivo. Saw a little of his QF match and certainly that serve is clicking well. Feds knows how to play him and he’s happy to be patient and wait his chance: once he gets his racquet on the ball a few times, Karlovic will have no answers. I remember being impressed with Goffin’s clean hitting when he played that match against Feds at RG, but I haven’t seen him play single match since he lost to Mardy Fish at Wimbledon! He seemed to be sinking fast, but here he is making stratospheric rise through the rankings. I’m sure Federer won’t be underestimating him should they meet. Cheers Susie.

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