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
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 😆
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.
|R. Federer||D. Istomin|
|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|
|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
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.