Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be a walk in the park?
It all was looking very easy for the Swiss maestro at the start of the match. A couple of Tursonov double-faults and some sweet and easy backcourt play from Federer brought an early break, Fed up 1-0, then 2-0, then very nearly 3-0.
But anyone who has been watching Federer as he's sputtered through his early 30s has seen this before. He cruises, looking very much the Roger of vintage 2007 form. Then the errors start building, the shanks and mis-hits and miscalculations begin to flow (even now, with his new, larger-framed racket), and his opponent takes heart, gains steam, starts believing that maybe, just maybe this could be the day for a career-defining win.
Suddenly Mr. Federer's daily stroll has turned into a long, arduous, unpredictable slog.
That happened again Monday afternoon out at the
What would this tournament be if the great Federer, coming off a big tournament win in Dubai, momentum on his side for the first time in over a year, ended up an upset victim? Tragedy. The spirit of scores of tennis fans who traveled to the desert to see one man, their Roger, crushed.
But take heart, guys up in the upper rows with your Swiss flag, red-and-white face paint and the sign reading "Quiet, Genius at Work." The first set went to a tiebreaker. The Russian, whose formative tennis years were spent in Sacramento, made it close with some stunningly acrobatic, reflexive tennis.
Still, in the end, Federer stayed steady, same as he's done so often in his career, even now in its sunset years. He came through when necessary, eked out the breaker. The fans breathed easier.
Uh-oh, hold on a minute, what's this? Second set. Tursunov breaks serve. Federer breaks back. There are winners and shanks and more unexpected tennis from both sides. Pretty soon it's 5-5 in the second, headed for another tiebreaker, the walk in the park longer, harder and dicier than expected.
Eventually, Federer held on for a 7-6 (7), 7-6 (2) win.