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Home » ATP Masters 1000 » Federer Opens Title Defence with Win vs. Stepanek
Federer def. Stepanek Madrid 2013

Federer Opens Title Defence with Win vs. Stepanek

Finally! The wait is over, the return of the GOAT onto a tennis court and he didn't disappoint as he cruised past Radek Stepanek 6-3 6-3 to start his title defence in good fashion and get back to winning ways on the ATP tour after an 8 week break.

The match itself wasn't high quality and there weren't really many surprises but it was pleasing to see Roger look quite sharp to say he's been out of action for so long. Although I thought Fed would win in straight sets I also expected Stepanek to cause a few problems but those never really materialised as Roger dictated the tempo of the match from start to finish.

Quick Match Analysis

Federer Starts Title Defence in Madrid

This was just the sort of routine first round match we've come to expect from Federer; not really having to do anything special but playing solidly but also having a few minor blips on his own serve when attempting to put the match to bed.

It all started nicely with a love hold and then Federer moved into a 3-1 lead after he broke serve when Stepanek made an unforced error, it was a bit of a gimme break really as Stepanek made a lot of unforced errors and Roger just had to be solid and wait for the mistake.

As is usually the case when trying to consolidate Roger got into troubles of his own having to save 2 break points with big serves which was actually quite nice to see as he cranked up the MPH when required.

Roger had another break point at 4-1 but Stepanek held before Fed served it out 6-3 to get off to a very nice start. The first set was always going to be important for Roger and winning it was going to be a nice confidence boost for him especially after not knowing what his level would be like in competitive play.

The second set was very similar to the first, Roger wasted 2 break points in the very first game but broke Stepanek in his next service game and then consolidated to move 3-1 in front. Stepanek had 2 break points of his own at 3-2 but wasn't able to convert them and he dropped serve again to leave Roger to serve for the match at 5-2.

The game at 5-2 was probably the most interesting of the match and it seemed to last longer than the entire first set, it was constantly switching between break point for Stepanek and match point for Roger.

Stepanek saved 3 match points, or rather Fed wasted them, and Roger saved 4 break points before finally relinquishing serve. I was a bit disappointed he couldn't serve it out the first time of asking as getting broken serving for a match isn't always a great sign but he did manage to break in the very next game which somewhat made up for it.

Thoughts on the Match

Federer Madrid 2013 vs. Stepanek

Overall a pretty good performance I thought, nothing special and it almost looked like he was cruising for most of it which can either mean 1 of two things a.) he's feeling confident in his game right now he can just coast it over the line even after 8 weeks off or b.) he can't be arsed playing anymore. I'll go with option A though in this instance πŸ™‚

There were a few signs of rust but nothing too major and he did pull out some big serves when required (perhaps good news on the back front), the only disappointment was the fact he got broken when serving for it. In terms of raw stats they were just average – 56% of first serves, 23 winners to 20 unforced errors and 4 out of 10 on break points. Enough to get the job done is the best way of describing it.

As for improvements I'd have liked to see a little bit more pop on the groundstrokes as he was just keeping the ball in play for large parts of it and waiting for Stepanek to clown up. I don't particularly enjoy watching that type of tennis but the strategy worked so if he was planning on easing his way into the tournament and expending little to no energy then it was the perfect display.

Other than that as a fan you can have no real complaints, it was a solid match and turned out to be pretty comfortable. Roger was always a step ahead of Stepanek and once he had him at arms lengths it was just a matter of playing smart tennis and maintaining his advantage and I thought he did that pretty well. I also think playing like this early on bodes well for later in the tournament too so hopefully I'm right.

I didn't think I played incredible, but that's not what I was expecting myself to do here. But I didn't play bad, either, so I'm very happy with how things went today. Stepanek is a player who can cause a lot of difficulties in the game. He has caused me difficulties in the past. Today that wasn't the case. I thought I was pretty much in control.

peRFect Tennis Shot of the Match

Even after a lengthy rest period he can still pull out a cross court backhand flick passing shot that finds the line πŸ˜€

Predictions vs. Nishikori / Troicki

Next up for Roger is either Kei Nishkori or Viktor Troicki. Roger has a winning record against them both beating Nishkori in the Basel final of 2011 (their only meeting) and defeating Troicki twice both on hard courts.

I figure he will meet Nishikori as he's infinitely more talented than Troicki. Troicki is probably at his best on clay but whether he can defeat someone like Nishikori who is consistent and talented remains to be seen.

It really doesn't matter a whole lot who Fed play as I think he will get the job done. Nishikori will be a test but I don't think he has the weapons to do much damage so the match is determined solely by how Roger plays. As for Troicki he's a known choker so I don't see him causing many problems. I'll go for a 6-2 6-4 victory either way. Allez!

About Jonathan

Huge fan of Roger Federer - I'll pretty much try and watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or tweeting about tennis I play regularly myself and use this blog to share my thoughts on Fed and tennis in general.

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82 comments

  1. First on the return of the GOAT! Oh yeah! πŸ˜€

    • Now onto the real comment πŸ˜› agree with you Jonathan, match was pretty average but that’s what we were waiting from him, really. I’d like to see him up against Nishikori, it’s be a more interesting match then against troicki…
      I’d like to see Rog up his first serve, like he had in the beginning of the match. had like 4 first serves out of 5…

      • Yeah he started quite well though, always nice to start with a love hold.

        I think Nishikori will beat Troichoke for sure.

    • Sid TheCookieThief

      Yes, yes, well done! You own the honor of making the first comment on the GOATs return πŸ™‚

      • Big milestone for Simon. I hear in his press conference he dedicated his victory to Katyani…

      • Jonathan !!! You are out to make Simon and me frenemies and he and I were getting along so well !!! Agreeing with each other and no more discussions about orange or Tsonga !!!

  2. Return of the king! πŸ˜€
    He sure started the match in style- it didn’t look like he had come off an 8 week break in the first few games!
    The match overall, as you said, wasn’t really a master class and as Rog said, it wasn’t expected to be one. What’s important is he got through, without any real scare.
    Oh and the outfit- it doesn’t look that terrible! Would have liked it a lot better had it been a polo, no doubt, but this looks okay too. However, nothing will ever match up to the black ‘Darth Federer’ outfits for me and he looks amazing in all shades of blue and red.
    On a slightly different note- how cute were the twins?! And I have never seen anyone sitting in a player’s box look so uninterested! LOL! They didn’t give a damn about what Roger was doing, were busy reading their books! Friggin adorable!
    Ah! Its so nice to see Roger back. I was looking at Mirka, Severin and Paul as if they were long lost friends who I was happy to finally see!:D

    • Yeah the girls were great πŸ˜€ it’s like: “dad’s playing? ah well who cares” πŸ˜€

      And about the outfit, I just can’t… Honestly. I would rather have a deeper green, but not puke green like that…

      • Puke green? Come on! πŸ˜€
        I think it looks good on Roger. Tommy Haas loved it. πŸ˜› He’s wearing it!

    • Hey FedFan,

      Yeah he came out the blocks really good, it was nice to see. Just a routine match, I have no real complaints.

      The twins looked cute as ever, Mirka has lost weight too by the looks of it, she looked very trim, all good in the hood.

      As for the outfit I’m not a fan, just not a nice green colour! Bad contrast with the bandana and sweatbands too.

      Jonathan

      • Love that he is back, hate the shirt but hey that’s one less shirt my husband ( diehard fan) will buy!!! Reckon Fed to make Semis fairly easily! Still hv the feeling Nadal might lose early. Much faster than Monte Carlo!
        On another note, the Djoko/ Dimitrov match was an absolute classic. About time Grigor delivered. Must go out and put money on him winning Wimbledon within next 5 yrs! Novak was a fool to hv played Monte Carlo with a busted ankle, and his coach will be furious!

      • Okay so everyone except me hates the shirt!
        Now that you mentioned it, I noticed Mirka looks slimmer in the pics- good for her!

        What do you think of Grigor’s win? I think it was good that he could win despite losing the second set after being up a break. I don’t think the loss means much to Djoker though, he can rest the supposedly injured ankle. It’d be hilarious if Nadal loses early too- those two were the biggest whiners last year about the blue clay!

      • I think playing Monte Carlo was an extremely smart move from Djoker. I thought it was daft before hand but by beating Nadal he made a big statement. I don’t think his loss in Madrid means much overall, probably make him hungrier.

        As for Dimitrov – big win for him, needs to stop cramping so easy though over 5 sets he will get beaten up big time. If Madrid was 5 yesterday no way he was winning.

        Jonathan

  3. Great to see Rog back on court again πŸ˜€ Very very happy about that. Match was not a masterclass, no, but it got the job done and he did pretty well after such a long break as you said. Loved the reception he got when he walked on court πŸ˜‰ Great stuff. The shot you chose was absolutely perfect. He had a few more of those, lovely lovely lovely πŸ™‚

    And speaking about the twins, there is one pic where one of the girls is on Mirka’s lap asking something and Mirka is talking to her and it got a great caption, saying “Why isn’t Daddy serving out the match”? I thought that was a great one πŸ˜‰ Cause getting to that, that was the only thing in the match that got me on the edge of my chair going ‘Come on Rog, serve it out’… But I guess it was just a one time flail, cause he was being all Fed-like in the interview after “Maybe I should have served it out”… πŸ˜‰

    Anyway. Nishikori next. Completely different match than this one, cause completely different opponent. Hope Rog is going to move it up a gear, cause I think he’ll need it. It’ll be closer than today I think… We’ll see. The Maestro is back on court and it was worth the wait I’d say πŸ˜€

    • Hey Natasja,

      You were predicting Nishikori before he’d even play Troicki huh πŸ˜‰ but you were right.

      I was pleased with this match, just did what he had to do. I think he will crank it up a notch against Nishikori. Schedules not out, hoping for night session.

      Jonathn

      • It will after Nadal Youzhny match which starts at 3:15 (not before) pm local time. I guess it will be around 5:15 pm local time.

      • Well… I had a feeling it’d be Nishikori… He’s on a roll here in Madrid and I consider him the better player anyway, at least from what I’ve seen from the both of them…

        Close match today, I have a feeling, but I already give you my predictions on Twitter πŸ˜‰

  4. With Djokovic gone only Rafa stands between Federer and the title.One +ve is that Madrid is the clay tournament where Roger has the best chance of beating Rafa.He beat him here in 2009 and lost a couple of pretty close matches in 2010 and 2011(one almost going the third set and the other going the third set) so there’s cause for optimism.Murray is also likely to make his first clay tournament final unless Berdych stops him.

    • Think either dimitrov or more likely Stan will beat him

    • Murray struggled past Mayer but maybe that gave him confidence. Still he’s gone back to pushing though instead of hitting the forehand.

      Still to early to say Fed will win it. I’ll make a decision after the Quarter Final should he make it and win.

  5. Thought the match overall went as expected — not the sharpest of performances but hey, the man took an 8-week break so its normal. At least he did what he needed to do and that’s all that matters at this stage! πŸ™‚

    I just thought one thing he should clean up is buckle down and convert on the critical points. As you said, he wasted 3 match points while up 5-2 and Stepanek, no disrespect to him, isn’t really a top player out there and I’m just afraid wasting 3 chances like so against the top players would come back and haunt him.

    Anyway, I think he’s just slowly getting back into form and let see how he improves next round!

  6. Oh my God, my atp draw is soooo screwed up now…

  7. Ladies & gentlemen, Madrid title is in the bag for Rafa! Vamooosss!

    • Batman, you said Madrid was Nadal’s before Djoker was knocked out. Seems you doubted your idol after all πŸ™‚

      Glad we both know Djokovic is his master.

      • Sid TheCookieThief

        Hahahaha! The relief shown in his comment implies he was pi***** his pants while Djoker was around πŸ™‚

    • Hi Batman… I think u r blogging on the wrong site. Ur Bat computer is giving u wrong info. Maybe its time for Robins ( Rafas) help to get the Jokers manipulation of all ATP events to suit Rafas clay court winning spell. After that he needs to see Bane for chemical enhancement for his biceps. After that Rafas press conference can be as usual like the Riddler.
      I could go on and on but ill stop b4 Jonathan bars me. Enough said.

      For Jonathan… I think i am having a bad day, so i applogize.

      • Sid TheCookieThief

        You definitely sound like you’ve had a long, bad day. Girlfriend problems? πŸ˜‰

      • For Sid… Spot on with ur analysis. What a crappy day i had. Anyway new day and am looking forward to prescribed medication of watching the GOAT in action!! πŸ™‚

  8. Sid TheCookieThief

    There are only two reasons I’m following the Madrid Masters. You know one of them? Can you guess the other? πŸ™‚

  9. I am just happy to watch Roger on court, rust or not – just too happy for words. Definitely missed him a lot. Not too bad for a guy who took 8 weeks break. Hope he will put up a decent fight against Nadal at semis.

    • Me too Dippy,

      It was a good match to say it was his first in 8 weeks. The key is just improving round by round. Which I think he can. Allez!

  10. Why not? Fedal can be boring but a semi final in Madrid should be a good matchup.

  11. Kneedal with another joke of a match!!! I would like him to play proper players, no offence to B Paire. Its just that every clay court event he gets easy players to enhance. ATP what a big joke and there so called random draws, my arse!! Sorry Jonathan for my outburst. I find it frustrating to say the least. Anyway thats me done. I feel much better now. πŸ™‚

  12. Relax man. The opponent gets tougher as the draw gets deeper! πŸ™ Twas just bad joke for the djoker that he got dumped by Fed jr :{}

    • Sid TheCookieThief

      [The opponent gets tougher as the draw gets deeper!]

      Really? Wonder why that is! Batman, one of these days, I’m going to cut you into little pieces πŸ™‚

  13. Hi Jonathan

    I do not care if he was slightly rusty – he was back on court – he’s just a joy to watch, it’s been a long 7 weeks and the shirts not as bad as I thought it would be – so pleased Djokovic is gone now can someone just beat Nadal before fed as to

  14. Sid TheCookieThief

    [don’t we want to see nadal vs federrer again]

    No. I don’t want to. A clay bully, on a clay court, in front of his home crowd? No!

    • Sid, how do you come up with this stuff: A clay bully, on a clay court, in front of his home crowd !!!

      Sid, I am watching the Rafa match now. The commentator is saying:
      Playing Rafa on red clay in Spain… there are much easier tasks in tennissport !!!
      Feel sorry for Youzhny. He is tired. Played two 3-sets before.
      Rafa just won the first set, of course.

      And……. now I understand the remark about the ball girls.
      Are they wearing a dress or a t-shirt??? Anyway…. so short !!!
      It’s oke dude, I don’t like Dimi just because he is a good tennisplayer !!!!
      I also like him because, well you know.

    • Don’t let Sharapova tread on your toes Katyani. Challenge her to a match, best of 5 sets, the winner gets to keep Grigor.

  15. I actually like the color of the shirt. There was a light teal green quite a few years ago that I thought looked even better on him, but this color is ok. Kind of good with the dark blue. (On the other hand, I liked him in pink too!)
    But the style! This could have come off the rack at Walmart and had a couple of logos drawn on it in Sharpie! Why not add a dark blue collar and cuffs – then you’d already have a sharpish Fed look. I’d love to see just a little dark blue patterning on the shirt too to dress it up. However, if they can’t even put Roger in a collar, that’s clearly too much to ask. Honestly, Nike.

    • (I’ve just realized I just described Dimitrov’s shirt. Facepalm.)

      • Haha, good one πŸ˜€ But yeah, I don’t even bother possibly considering perhaps buying a fed outfit without a collar πŸ˜›

  16. Roger just lost the first set. There goes your 6-2 6-4, Jonathan

  17. Looks like we’re moving onto Rome sooner than we thought folks. Well who would’ve thought the ATP prospects would step up this week huh? Both number one and number two gone. Poor from Fed really, Nadal can run through the field now.

    Roger must go deep into Rome now otherwise he will have had really no match practice prior to FO coming back from such a length break. Not a great season so far I’m afraid. And if history tell us anything by my stat-Roger isn’t winning Wimbledon this year. Will Nadal?

    • I hope Haas wins! Or anyone else. NOT NADAL!

      • He’s got to get through David first. But even so, there’s no way he makes it past Rafa. Nadal is winning this no doubt about it. Unfortunate it really but Roger had no fight in his game whatsoever. People are saying it’s rust but this is something else, looked like he didn’t want to be out there. Credit to Kei but this is something I have not seen from Roger before.

        Roger said he cut his schedule down so that every tournament he played he would have the best chance of winning. So far he hasn’t even made any of the finals of the tournaments he’s won last year or a final alone. I am worried. He already has no confidence and this is not going to help. He’s going to have to place his hope on Rome now-one of his worst tournaments. He’ll probably also get Rafa drawn in his half again, if not his quarter just for the sake of it. I know Fed steps up for the slams but is the streak going to come to a close soon? So far, it’s looking like it. There’s just no way Roger can make it deep into the slams with no confidence and matches.

        Well now that Rafa is winning Madrid, I’m sorry to say that he’ll be lifting the golden trophy later this year. Ugh, please Roger get your shit together before it’s too late.

        The only good thing that can come out of this is when Rafa wins he defends Roma as well and gets back to number 4. And it’s looking like there’s a good chance it’s going to happen. Who knows guys, maybe this was a blessing in disguise. But for now, Roger is going to have to sit down with Annacone and really make some decisions because after two months of practicing and returning to the tour with loads of energy-this match is not what you want to see. See you guys in Italy next week.

        Ciao

      • I agree, says he’s going to be difficult to beat after working hard for 8 weeks and then plays like that? lol

        He has said he will sit down with his team and plan what’s next on the agenda though. Just posted his presser in my new post.

        Onto Rome!

  18. OMG…Roger what happened today. The curse of 6-2 again. Never mind Rome next!!

  19. Lets be honest here. Fed fell apart in Set 3! Looked slow and failed to read Keis shot direction. Looking v tough to make WTF this yr if he continues this way. Don’t care what anyone says, there is nothing like match practice for keeping you sharp. Look at Haas this season as an example! He has simply not played enough this year! Practise never replicates match situations! Nishi is fast and v accurate. Fed simplys breaks down too quickly these days. These guys keep the ball going endlessly! Not Fed’s game! Really really desperate for him to click back into winning ways but think this is a tough season all the way. If he is up for the fight, then great! If not…..as for the title, anyone but Nadal! Time for a change! The others give him too much respect on clay!

    • Yes Fed was rusty but there was no will in this match/no 3.0 appearance to fight for the win at least? That’s not right. As for masters cup, I think Roger qualifies for WTF this year but not until late into the season (slam consistency is the only thing he’s hanging onto right now) I’m not impressed this season at all.

      • Also Roger I believe won all this net points, I don’t understand why he didn’t come in more? No confidence obviously. If Roger is to turn this season around in the next month or two, he’s going to have to go on some sort of streak I’d say and beat one of the big three in the process. I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the lack of desire so far.

        He looked pretty motivated in Australia so hopefully we see the same thing as move closer to FO, who knows? Maybe he will regain some passion there.

      • All I can say is that fortunately Rafa is not playing great or superb either. He would have never won the title with Roger out and Novak in. Novak would have 200 % beaten him in the final. But wait………. there is no Novak either !!!! Damn you Dimi. Did you have to choose this tournament to defeat the only man alive to beat Rafa on clay???
        Damn you Dimi. Oke for your punishment, you should make it to the final and defeat Rafa. The thing you almost did at MC.

        This is what is so bad (rather then good) when someone pulls an upset. Dimi defeated Novak, now Rafa will win the title for sure.
        Just like Barcelona, I was happy when Berdych lost, but then I thought, now there is no one to stop Rafa.

      • Sid TheCookieThief

        Katyani, Dimitrov has a better chance to beat Nadal in these conditions, that is, if he doesn’t mess up before that.

      • Well, if Dimi goes through, he has to defeat Tsonga first. And Tsonga is….. Tsonga.
        Does not play that well, looks distracted, but still always wins the match.

      • @Susie – I agree with most things you said about Fed re his level + confidence but Haas is not a good comparison; he was missing off the tour for half his career. Roger has way more mileage than Haas.

        @Katyani @Sid Dimitrov can beat Nadal here for sure.

  20. Slow down the courts! their too fast!

  21. Sid TheCookieThief

    Though I half expected this to happen, I’m still shocked it has happened. I know how to fix this…I’m going to go buy a pack of cup noodles πŸ™

  22. Roger was rusty. But he’ll bounce back in Rome im sure. No sour graping folks. Rafa will not move away from everyone in terms of number os masters won!

    Hate to say this, but Rafa will RUN THRU THE FIELD NOW….

  23. Correction: Rafa will now move away from everyone in terms of number of Masters 1000 series won!

  24. Just have to say this. I am happy though that Novak is out too. If Novak was still in the tour and Roger would have lost to Kei, he would be destroyed by the critics. All that about retirement would come up again.
    Atleast Novak losing too has been a liitle bit helpful for him, I think.
    Now they both share the burden of an early upset.

    • True, Djokers loss has helped him a bit here as people can compare it to that. Dimitrov earned his win though, Kei just had to turn up basically.

  25. One question. After the match I saw the stats and they were pretty much the same for both of them.
    Roger was really not playing that bad at all. But the ue. How can you cut down the ue’s?

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