Federer startled everyone by winning his fifth Australian Open in January working through a tough draw and beating his arch rival Rafael Nadal in the final match. Very few would have thought the 17th seed would emerge as the triumphant one there. Roger proved everyone wrong and made a fantastic comeback to top level tennis in the most charismatic fashion. He is still completing his comeback. Last Sunday, he just won the Indian Wells masters for the fifth time in his career beating his compatriot Stan Wawrinka in the final with the score being 6-4, 7-5. The match lasted 1 hour and 20 minutes and featured some decent quality tennis.
Federer’s route to the final, match with Rafa
Federer’s draw wasn’t simple. His antidote Rafa was lurking as a potential 4th round opponent. In addition to Rafa, Kyrgios and Jack Sock were other dark horses in his path. He did have to face Rafa in the fourth round. He played his best match of the tournament against Rafa. He exhibited a breathtaking performance annihilating his opponent in 1 hour and 8 minutes with the score being 6-2, 6-3. He was unbroken on serve and won 58% of the points in the match. He hit many winners and fierce groundstrokes. His backhand was as lethal as it was during the Australian Open. His next match would have been against the anti-hero Nick Kyrgios which was eventually cancelled due to the latter’s food poisoning. His next opponent, Jack Sock, was a homeboy and capable of causing an upset. He had been on a great run this season having won 2 ATP 250 titles and reached a masters semis for the first time. The match was too straightforward for the American crowd’s liking as Roger won 6-1, 7-6 (4) without facing a break point. It set the stage for an all-Swiss final. Roger Federer was to take on Stan Wawrinka for the title.
The final was competitive. The first set was on serve until Stan served at 4-5 trying to stay in the set. That’s when Roger managed to play a gritty return game to break Stan’s serve and take the first set 6-4. Wawrinka broke Roger’s serve in the first game of the second set and went 2-0 up. Stan hit three excellent winners in the first game. Roger broke back in the fourth game of the set to get back on serve at 2-2. On break point, he should great reflexes to unleash a forehand passing shot. There were no more breaks until Wawrinka served at 5-6. A match point came up for Roger. He found a good angle with his backhand to work with, unleashed a forehand down the line and finally played an easy volley at the net to win the championship.
An emotional Wawrinka jokingly called Roger Federer an ‘asshole’ in the runner-up speech as the two grinned in a friendly manner.
Roger just won his 25th masters title and his 5th Indian Wells title. Rafa with 28 titles and Djokovic with 30 titles are ahead of him though. He now has most number of masters 1000 finals along with Djokovic; 43 masters finals. He became the oldest man to win a masters tournament at least since 1990. Most tennis followers are just awe-struck by Roger’s brilliance at this age. He is now ranked no. 6 in the ATP rankings. He moved up 11 places since being no. 17 in January.
At the moment, Roger is no. 1 on the race rankings.
A glance at the ATP Race to London rankings; candidacy for year-end no. 1 title
The following illustration throws light on the position and year-end no. 1 candidacy of the players ranked 1, 2 and 3 in the race rankings.
Roger seems to be the best candidate for the year-end no. 1 title. He is the leader and is way ahead of everyone else right now. But, Rafael Nadal has what it takes to turn the tables on Roger. Stan Wawrinka has been impressive so far this year but needs to win big trophies to make it happen.
Rafa will rely largely on the clay season to collect points. Clay is Rafa’s best lifeline. If he can win Roland Garros, he can go the distance this year as it is generally momentum that propels him forward.
Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have fallen way behind in the race points. Things are looking different and worse for them as they both are struggling to find their best form.
It bears watching if Roger can keep up his level and win more titles to ultimately end the year as the world no. 1 for the sixth time. It also bears watching if Rafa or Stan can step up their level or if Murray and Djokovic can begin contesting for big titles again.
But, certainly, it’s Roger who is conquering the field at the moment. He is the man to beat and perhaps also the number one contender for the year-end number one title.
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