Roger Federer: Federer’s First Title Of 2012
February 20, 2012 by staff
Roger Federer: Federer’s First Title Of 2012, Before Roger Federer left Rotterdam’s Centre Court after his tense semifinal victory on Saturday night, he was quick to remind everyone that he and the man he would face in the final “had history”.
Juan Martin del Potro may have only beaten him twice in their 10 previous meetings, but those two wins included the US Open final and the round robin stage of the World Tour finals. On both occasions, both on hard courts, the matches went the distance.
Since then, the former world No4 missed most of 2010 with a wrist injury and much of 2011 in reclaiming his fitness and winning ways.
Federer was quick to add that it was “good to see him back playing well again”. After his own fight-back from a set and a break down, there may have been more of an edge to that comment than he intended, for a del Potro at his best is a very dangerous animal.
And anyone choosing to use the Rotterdam semi-finals as a guide to who would lift the 2012 trophy might very easily have given the nod to the Argentine.
Del Potro reached the final here, and his first 500 final since his wrist surgery, with a storming win over world No7, Tomas Berdych. The Czech came to the Netherlands with a 5-0 match-win record, the Montpellier title and a major part in taking the Czech Republic into the Davis Cup quarter-finals, but he could not handle the resurgent form of the big Argentine-a 6-3, 6-1, 75-minute trouncing.
Even the usually reticent del Potro was up-beat about his performance: “I’m very happy as it’s my first victory against a top-10 player this year. It means a lot for my confidence.”
In fact, it was his first victory against a top-10 player-other than by retirement-since beating Robin Soderling in Estoril last April. No wonder the hangdog expression of the Argentine had been replaced by a near-constant smile and growing confidence.
“I played almost perfect against Berdych today. I’m improving match by match, today I played better than yesterday and tomorrow I have to play better if I want to win the tournament.
“I thought I had many fans here, but tomorrow if I play against Roger, I don’t know if they chant for me or for Roger.”
In fact, he already knew what lay in store because his very first appearance in Rotterdam was a heavy-hitting hour-long practice session with Federer. The fans here have made no secret of their passion for both the Swiss man and his tennis, filling whichever practice court he chose and giving a standing ovation at his every entrance and exit.
Federer also brought with him a recent Grand Slam win over the Argentine, a straightforward, straight sets victory at the Australian Open: “I played him really well in Australia, my 1000th match, so I hope I can play it similar, even though it’s indoors.”
Two other factors had the potential to influence the outcome. Federer admitted to a certain tiredness at the start of his semi-final and a difficulty in finding his rhythm after relatively little match-play:
“I still didn’t think I was hitting the ball as clean but as the match went on, I was hoping that would get better. I think I’ve been serving well all week, and also I think I started to return a bit better, and then also move better, and that’s obviously very encouraging.”
Sure enough, come the final, the power, the consistency and the tactical brilliance came from the crisp footwork and the lightning follow-through of the Swiss racket. Del Potro summed it up in his brief words to the press shortly afterwards: “He knows how to play big finals like this.”
Federer’s opening serve initially unfolded much as that in his Davydenko match. He defended three deuces and one break point but held with a smash, an ace and volley winner.
With his change of tactics quickly established, he stuck to them like glue. He chipped the return of serve low and short to put his tall opponent on the defensive and then opened his shoulders for a length-perfect winner. If the rally became longer, he threw in a drop shot, as he did to break in the second game.
The forehand that had struggled to find its mark in the semi-finals came into play, too. Federer held his ground even in the baseline forehand exchanges. The Federer forehand, at its best, is a lower, leaner and more angled shot than del Potro’s and it was the forehand that broke for a second time in the fourth game. A serve and volley play then took him to 5-0.
Finally, in the sixth game, del Potro out-rallied the Swiss for almost the first time in the match to hold his serve. The crowd roared their encouragement, the Argentine put up a thumb in acknowledgement and, just briefly, he looked like breaking back with a 0-30 lead. But Federer countered with a serve and drop-volley combo and finished with a cross-court backhand winner. The set was done in 33 minutes, 6-1.
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