We're underway in Dubai albeit not in spectacular fashion as Federer had to shake off a slow start to beat Tunisian Wild Card Malek Jazir 5-7, 6-0, 6-2.
It was Roger's first match back since his loss to Benneteau in Rotterdam so I expected some elements of rust but never in a million years thought he'd lose the first set. In the end though it went pretty much to the script and Roger now faces either Marcel Granollers or Albert Montanes in the second round. Anyway let's take a quick look at the match breakdown:
The first set was classic early round Roger, or at least up until 5-5 as usually we see him miss a few early break point opportunities but eventually against lower ranked players he converts one of them towards the end of the set but this time around it didn't happen.
After wasting 3 break points early I thought Fed would eventually take his chance but at 5-5 he played a disaster of a service game throwing down a double fault at 15-30 to give Jaziri break points which he took without needing a second invitation. The Tunisian then showed no nerves when serving it out, doing so to 15 to take a hugely surprising lead.
Hard to explain the set really, rust? lack of concentration? Even though Roger was lacking practice since Rotterdam I figured he'd come out and put on a show for the crowd tonight but if anything it was Jaziri who was the one focused on entertaining. He pretty much went for broke on everything after holding his opening 2 service games and proved to be a really tricky opponent.
Jaziri also only made 38% of his first serves to win the first set, when does that usually get the job done? 😀
Normal Service Resumes
After the shock of losing the first set the good news was that Roger didn't get rattled and hit back very strongly to break early and ended up bagelling Jaziri 6-0 to get back on level terms.
A champions response really after a sluggish start but I figure he probably just decided he needed focus that bit more and try and ride out Jaziri's gung ho tennis tactics. Similar to Jaziri in the first set Roger only made 48% of his first serves in the 2nd yet still didn't drop a game, kinda shows what a weird match this was.
The final set was slightly closer though as Jaziri had a chance to break at 1-1 only to hit a forehand miles long and Roger was able to step it up another gear to break twice to take the final set 6-2. Comfortable by the end of it but that first set scoreline makes the match look more of a struggle than it ultimately was.
Thoughts on the Match
Well a tough one really, a win is of course a win, not exactly emphatic but more than enough to get the job done. I don't think Federer did anything to get excited about but serving up a bagel was a nice response after the disappointment of the first set and he did start to play better as the match wore on.
You also have to wonder if Jaziri wasn't carrying an injury or was in better shape (looked pretty top heavy to me) could it have been even closer? Potentially I guess but I thought the Tunisian played quite well regardless of his injury / fitness and he didn't hold back on any of his shots which on a fast court like Dubai makes it difficult even for the GOAT.
You can also look at it from the point of view that if Roger had broken Jaziri's serve on any of his 3 attempts in the first the match would have probably been over in straight sets so it was really his own fault for giving his opponent a way into the match. Like I said though, Jaziri played pretty aggressively and went for the lines which as we all know with high risk comes high reward so he deserved it.
The positives for me are that Federer fought back strongly and won 12 of the last 14 games to get through a tricky encounter. The other good news is that court time can't hurt him right now and the court also looked to be playing really fast which should work in his favour.
It's worth remembering though that the speed of the court becomes irrelevant if you dont' serve well and Fed will definitely have to improve that in his next match, he was at 54% overall for today which isn't terrible but if he can crank it up to around 60-65% he can make things way easier for himself.
It important to sort of react and make sure I didn't panic ,but, of course your mind starts to wander, especially in a match where there is hardly any rallies. He's going for broke on every return. All you're trying to do is get into some rallies, and you're missing a lot yourself.
It was a difficult match for me out here tonight, but I'm happy I found a way and got a day off now so I can work a little bit on the game. Just maybe the pressure is off a little bit, and then automatically I will play a lot better in the second round.
Points of the Match
Federer showing great athleticism on his backhand side to keep in the point here.
Predictions vs. Granollers / Montanes
Next up for Roger is either Marcel Granollers or Albert Montanes both of Spain. Roger leads the H2H against them both 1-0 and 3-1 respectively.
Whoever he faces next I think Roger will get the job done without too much of a fuss. He did of course lose to Montanes in 2010 at Estoril but that was Roger 2.0 playing clown tennis back then so it's not really a telling defeat and I doubt it could happen again.
Anyway I'm writing Montanes off already as I think Granollers will be the guy that makes it through as he's the better hard court player. As it happens Roger actually played Granollers for the first time in Dubai back in 2011 winning through in straight sets. I figure it will be a similar story should they meet this time around, Gruntollers can be quite tricky as he's consistent but unless Roger plays like he did against Benneteau there's only one winner. I think straight sets 7-5 6-4. Allez!