Roger Federer made a winning return to the ATP Tour after his 4 week hiatus defeating Mikhail Youzhny for the sixteenth time in a row 6-3, 6-1 in the 1st round at the Dubai Duty Free Championships.
After the loss to Seppi at the Australian Open Roger hasn't played a competitive match so his form was unknown coming in but he shrugged of a slowish start to run away the comfortable winner against the man he beat in the final here 8 years ago.
In doing so Roger now leads the H2H against the Russian 16-0 and by serving 8 aces he has moved to a career ace count of 8,985, Just 15 away before the hits the 9,000 mark which only Goran Ivanisevic, Ivo Karlovic and Andy Roddick have managed previously. Quite astonishing really as all 3 of those guys have (or had) huge serves which gave them a big advantage. Fed only serves around 114-121 mph (around 10 mph slower than the 3 listed) but his placement is unrivalled.
Quick Match Recap
Youzhny won the toss and elected to serve, holding to 15. Roger then had to fight off deuce in his opening game and throughout the opening games it was Youzhny who had the upper hand in most of the exchanges, striking the ball cleaner off both wings.
The Russian soon moved into a 3-2 lead without been tested on serve however at 3-3, he lost the opening point on his serve for the first time which then saw him slip to 15-40. Roger wasted both break points but had a 3rd chance which he would have taken had it not been for a poor line call which meant a point had to replayed even though Youzhny was unlikely to win it. Luckily it made no difference as the replayed point ended with Youzhny hitting a backhand just long to drop serve after an extended rally.
That one break put the wind in Roger's sails after a relatively sloppy start and he broke again at 5-3, winning 4 games in a row to take the first set. Pretty much the tale of the H2H between these too.
Into the second set and Youzhny unravelled like we've seen many times before. Double faulting at 0-40 to slip 2-0 behind. With Roger now moving freely and more at home with the conditions he began to strike the ball with much more confidence and broken again at 4-1, aided once more by a Youzhny double faut at 30-30 before he served it out in style; hitting a gorgeous volley at 30-0 and then sealing the deal with an ace down the T.
|M. Youzhny||R. Federer|
|1st Serve %||44%||63%|
|1st Serve Points Won||9/20 (45%)||26/31 (84%)|
|2nd Serve Points Won||14/25 (56%)||9/18 (50%)|
|Break Points Saved||3/7 (43%)||0/0 (0%)|
|Service Games Played||8||8|
|1st Return Points Won||5/31 (16%)||11/20 (55%)|
|2nd Return Points Won||9/18 (50%)||11/25 (44%)|
|Break Points Won||0/0 (0%)||4/7 (57%)|
|Return Games Played||8||8|
|Net Points Won||4/11||5/11|
|Total Service Points Won||23/45 (51%)||35/49 (71%)|
|Total Return Points Won||14/49 (29%)||22/45 (49%)|
|Total Points Won||37/94 (39%)||57/94 (61%)|
Thoughts on the Match
“I think it was close in that first set. I think we were both trying to find our range. I'm happy I didn't start to play too careful after it, because it is tough to play here in Dubai with the quick conditions. After that, I think I started to return much better. Serve got a bit more consistent. My half volleys were getting better. I was able to get the set and the break, and then that's when you can bring it home.”
Pretty good start here for the GOAT and I thought he played solidly from start to finish. Considering he hasn't played in 4 weeks it didn't take him too long to get used to the fast conditions and start taking the upper hand when he had the chance.
It was obviously a good job he has such a reliable serve in the early exchanges when Youzhny was threatening to get the break but we've seen Roger struggle numerous times early in Dubai in the first round; losing to Murray in 2008 and struggling against Jaziri a couple of years back so I wasn't really worried about the shanks / poor timing in the early part of the match.
Looking at the stats Roger will definitely need to win more points behind his second serve as the week goes on and I'd like to see him win more points in the forecourt. 5/11 isn't too bad of course but would be nice if it was a touch higher. But no real insights to gain from this one as Youzhny's resistance faded pretty quickly once Fed got the break in the first set so we'll know more about Fed's level when he takes on either Garcia Lopez or Verdasco in the next round which should be a tougher test.
Predictions vs. Verdasco
Next up is Fernando Verdasco who defeated Guillermo Garci-Lopez in straight sets. Not the result I expected really as GGL has been in pretty good form. Verdasco is of course mercurial talent so can give anyone a game on his day and like I said in my draw post, this is the first time he's played in Dubai for a number of years so will surely be keen to go on a decent run and justify the decision for switching from the clay of South America.
Roger has never lost to this guy and I don't really expect that to change tomorrow. Roger usually just bosses things against this particular left hander and capitalises on Fiasco's tendency to donate games with double faults and cheap errors.
Probably for the Spaniard to win he'd need to summon something like his 2009 level and really flatten out his forehand when he gets chance. By the same token Fed would need to hit 2013 levels or have a really bad day at the office.
Could be a reasonably close match but Fed in straights. 6-4 7-6(3).