Roger Federer’s game doesn’t look old at Indian Wells

Roger Federer returns a shot during his fourth-round victory over Tommy Haas at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells on Wednesday.
(Paul Buck / EPA)
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When most of the smoke had cleared Wednesday in the men’s singles at Indian Wells, the coolest dude still standing was the guy in the purple shirt and orange shoes who has two kids and another on the way.

Oh, yes, and he’s 32 years old.

Roger Federer is still on a glide pattern. Of all the tennis balls being hit and moves being made on the court in this BNP Paribas Open, he is doing it the best and looking the most in control.

He has won this tournament four times, and is in the quarterfinals again. Wednesday, he beat his good friend Tommy Haas, the guy from Germany who is mostly from Los Angeles now and who is actually older than Federer.


Yet Haas, who will be 36 on April 3, is still a force to be reckoned with and came in here ranked No. 12 and seeded No. 11. Federer’s 6-4, 6-4 victory, no walk in the park, played out in front of the usual full house for Federer in the 16,100-seat main stadium.

Haas, despite losing, had at least one memorable moment of his own.

On one point, after Federer had jerked him from side to side as if he had him on a string, Haas ended it by chasing down an angled volley and, at full stretch, whisking a lunging forehand past Federer.

From the crowd came the inevitable. “You still got it, old man.”

Assuming that No. 2 Novak Djokovic would make it through in a late match, the rest of the bracket for the men’s quarterfinals filled out rather strangely.

John Isner, the 6-foot-10 player with the booming serve, was an exception. He continued to carry the banner for U.S. men’s tennis with a 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3 victory over a quirky Spaniard, Fernando Verdasco.

The two quarterfinal spots that were supposed to go to No. 3 Stanislas Wawrinka, the reigning Australian Open champion, and to No. 5 Andy Murray, the reigning Wimbledon champion, went elsewhere.

Wawrinka lost to another big server, 6-8 South African Kevin Anderson. Murray went out in a similar situation, bowing to Canada’s 6-5 Milos Raonic, who also serves bullets.


Wawrinka lost, 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-1, and said afterward that his lack of energy, more than a back injury he suffered on the second point of the first-set tiebreaker, was the reason for his demise. He had started the year by winning his first 13 matches and admitted that being a major champion for the first time had taken its toll.

“There is more expectation,” he said, “from tournaments, from people, from fans.”

Murray’s 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 defeat left him scratching his head and pondering why he played so badly in the final set.

“To get broken three consecutive times in that situation isn’t good enough,” he said. “I played poor tennis at that stage. There is no excuse for missing those shots.”

The man who knocked out top-seeded Rafael Nadal a round earlier, Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine, kept going with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Fabio Fognini of Italy.

Ernests Gulbis of Latvia eliminated the man who had eliminated No. 4 Tomas Berdych earlier in the tournament. Gulbis beat Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, 7-6 (0), 4-6, 6-2. Unseeded Julien Benneteau of France got the spot opposite the Djokovic match winner with a 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory over Feliciano Lopez of Spain.

Federer started his news conference with a conversation about Haas. The comment was made that Haas is still “pretty good.” Federer was quick with the correction.


“He’s not just pretty good,” he said. “He’s very good. What I like about Tommy is the intensity he brings to the court. Every shot he hits, it’s with a purpose.”

Haas became a regular on the tour in 1996. He has won 15 tour titles and got to as high as No. 2 in 2002. He has missed entire seasons with injuries, has broken both ankles and has been the tour’s comeback player of the year twice.

As outrageous as it sounds, Federer might be in line for that honor this year. He lost 17 matches in 2013, did not add to his record 17 major titles, and departed in two of the Grand Slams in the second and fourth rounds.

He has started this year 15-2. Father Time seems to be showing patience.

The same might be said of Federer that he said of Haas. Right now, he is not just pretty good, he is very good.