We're underway in Basel and Roger got off to a winning start beating Benjamin Becker 7-5 6-3 in the night match at the St. Jakobshalle stadium. The scoreline looks straightforward enough but contrary to what I said in my prediction it was a rather tricky affair and had Becker kept his head when it counted then he could have taken a set.
Into the match itself and Roger held his opening service game comfortably enough, then immediately had 2 break point chances on the Becker serve; a couple of good serves from the German meant Fed couldn't capitalise and he held. It felt like quite a promising start.
After that though the first set wasn't really much to write home about, Roger had 0-30 at 2-2 but hit 3 unforced errors in a row to blow his chance. He faced a BP on his own serve at 3-3 but saved it with a serve/forehand combo but disappointingly he just didn't seem to find any rhythm.
At 6-5 Roger rather luckily got the breakthrough when Becker served a double fault on break point. It was a bit of a choke really and I felt like the set almost deserved to result in a tie breaker. I guess that sums up why Becker is down at 80 in the world though, he'd played pretty well, had a chance to break and then folded at the business end of the set.
Second Set; More of the same
I thought after getting lucky to win the first set Roger would be able to free up and just play smooth tennis but that didn't happen unfortunately.
He still wasn't finding his spots on serve and was making too many errors from the back of the court. The service game in which he was broken in at 2-2 probably sums up the match; a bit lackluster. It wasn't like Becker had to go above and beyond to break, he just had to get the ball back and wait for the error and that's never fun to watch.
On a positive note however it wasn't as if Roger buckled after dropping serve; he hit straight back, held, then broke again before serving it out to love. That was a strong response and even though Fed looked visibly displeased with his game through the match it was nice to see him hit back when he needed to.
In terms of the match stats Fed made 56% of first serves, converted 3 of 12 break points and won 82% of points behind his first serve. Not the worst stats of course but the first serve % needs to be higher because the more cheap points he's able to get the freer he can play.
Has Roger's Poor Form From Shanghai Continued into Basel?
I tweeted during the match that I was surprised that it looks like Roger's poor form from Shanghai has followed him into Basel. A lot of fans said I was being too picky and too harsh on Fed in his first match but I am concerned he is still feeling the effects of a long year and may not have enough in the tank to take down Basel and the World Tour Finals.
I could of course be wrong and maybe he's just feeling a little rusty, he started in similar fashion last year against Starace and even dropped a set to Nieminen before sweeping to the title so it's not like this hasn't happened before.
The one difference I see this year though is Roger isn't serving well and is handing out breaks for fun, in those two matches I've highlighted above, he wasn't playing great but he was still serving superbly well. Lately his first serve has been way off the mark, Murray took it to pieces for large parts of the Shanghai semi final and today against Becker it wasn't exactly firing on all cylinders. He still hit 10 aces but 56% of first serves isn't the greatest stat and I think this has to improve.
One good thing though is he isn't going to come up against any world class returners so it's not like he's going to get really pressured into making first serves. Maybe that can play to his advantage and give him some confidence because I think he looks pretty low right now.
It's still early in the tournament though so it's a little too early to judge Roger completely so we'll just have to see how his next match goes against Thomaz Bellucci or Go Seoda. Then we'll know for certain if his form has returned.
Those 2 player tomorrow evening and I'll update this post with a prediction.