Buonasera! What an absolute clinic that was from Roger as he swept past Potito Starace 6-1 6-2 in just 51 minutes. Tough to put into words how well he played in this one as it was such a fluid performance and Starace didn't even play badly yet he got taken apart.
As a fan you couldn't ask for a better response after the tough loss to Nishikori, with a fresh new haircut Fed looked like a new man out there really as pretty much everything he tried came off. Liquid gold forehand folks.
I obviously figured he'd win quite comfortably but this was just so one sided and it really turned out to be a statement match that we've come to expect from Roger over the years when he needs to prove a point. Let's take a look…
Quick Match Analysis
How do you analyse a match that lasted 51 minutes and was dominated by the GOAT? It's not easy so in a nutshell it was Federer creaming the ball off both wings and Starace looking slightly confused as to what was happening.
It's always a good sign when Roger holds serve easily and a 50 second love hold in the very first game just set the tone for this one. Starace got off to a nice start too holding to love but from there on he wouldn't see the light of day again.
At 2-1 Roger created 3 break points, rather than waste them with chip returns, he played aggressively and blazed a forehand into the open court to start with a 100% BP conversion rate. That was consolidated and the double break sealed easily to take a 5-1 lead. In true Roger style he found himself 2 break points down when serving for it but he saved them both and took the set 6-1. Routine.
The good thing here was even though he fell 2 break points down, he'd gotten so much confidence from the way he was playing that he could just play like them like he had nothing to lose. That's a big part of his game so it was nice to see. I know it's only the second round and Starace isn't top tier but this was pleasing to see especially as he's been losing to player of a similar calibre to Starace recently like Benneteau and Nishikori (ok they're slightly better).
The second set was more of the same and you just knew Roger was going to accelerate away with this one. He broke early was soon into a 3-1 lead with 2 more break points, Starace staved them off but Roger wasn't to be denied as he broke again to lead 5-2 and then served it out hitting a down the T on match point. Very nice, he hardly missed all match and then sealed the deal in style.
This was a total treat for the fans and I guess the only disappointment is that it only lasted 51 minutes, but when you see the highlights reel there's plenty of shots that were worth the ticket price alone.
I had no choice but to hit the practice courts here… what I've been working on seems like it's working but then again every opponent plays different and today Potito couldn't make an impact with his game and I was able to impose my will today.
35 winners to 8 unforced errors, and Starace only hit 9 unforced errors himself, shows you the level he was playing at!
Shot of the Match
Thoughts on the match
Whether your a Federer fan or just a tennis purist then it doesn't really get much better than this in terms of aesthetics. Make no doubt about it Roger was in full flow tonight, timing everything, serving bombs and hitting the casing off the ball off both his forehand + backhand and it's just so much more fun to watch.
You only have to look at the stats image above to know how solid this match was from Roger, he really came up with the goods tonight and just made Starace look like an amateur. I'm trying to pick out specific shots but pretty much every single time he hit a forehand it had some serious zip on it, even the backhand was firing winners from all over the shop.
The main thing this all stems from is great footwork and movement, it looked like Roger made a real effort to be on his toes tonight and constantly on the move. This is really the key to top level tennis, if you're stood still for even just a split second then you're going to struggle. Testament to the focus on movement is that he played 20 points at the net and won 15 of them, in a match that was only 15 games long and on clay that's a really high number which is great to see.
There's not much else you can say really other than I hope he continues where he left off in the next round. It's important he capitalises on this purple patch he seems to have entered and tries to maintain it. I don't think he can play like this every single match in a tournament but keeping above a certain level throughout and playing clutch when he needs to is the goal from here on in. Tonight was a statement match in my mind, a few tough losses and he hits back with a great win and it's the best I've seen him play probably since the Raonic match at the Australian Open.
I suppose it's important not to get too carried away off the back of one performance but with the draw opening up after Haas and Dimitrov both lost it does look like he can put together a decent run here and get some confidence back into his game for the French Open and the long stretch of tournaments that are head.
Predictions vs. Simon or Youzhny
Next up for Roger is either Gilles Simon or Mikhail Youzhny. When it comes to thee two they're like chalk and cheese for Roger. He struggled against Simon and cruises past Youzhny so it will be interesting to see who he faces.
Simon has a winning record against Roger and the last time they played was in that 5 set epic at the Australian Open in 2011. Simon has been ok form pushing (literally) Murray hard in Madrid but I think Roger can beat him here in Rome if plays aggressively and comes into the net a lot like today. It's tough to see why Roger struggles against Simon really as he's such a lightweight but he does move well, strikes the ball cleanly and gets a lot back in play so I guess that's why he comes unstuck.
As for Youzhny he's pretty much Roger's whipping boy as he leads him 14-0 in the H2H. I suppose you could say he's due a win against him but I don't think it will be here. Youzhny is almost like a lesser version of Roger in his style, a nice game but one that breaks down very easily and he can self destruct at any given moment.
I think he will play Youzhny next but from a personal point of view I'd prefer Simon as I think beating Simon here is a good test and will give him more confidence for the later rounds. Either way I'm picking Fed in straights: 6-4 6-2. Allez!