Federer gets schooled in win vs. wildcard-A A +A
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
DUBAI – Roger Federer will be playing fewer tennis matches in 2013, with a two-month holiday coming up after his next event at Indian Wells. The world No. 2’s precarious first-round win Monday night at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships against a wild card entry who hasn’t played in four months seems to make that decision all the more worthwhile.
The 31-year-old defending champion, going for a sixth title here, overcame a tentative start to pull off a 5-7, 6-0, 6-2 win over the 128th-ranked Tunisian Malek Jaziri, in a match he would describe as a test of nerves.
“I got schooled,” he said after the match, adding that the first-set debacle “went from not so good to really not so good.”
Federer actually had a blistering start – literally – as he needed just over a minute to wrap up the first game. Everything seemed to be going his way, having blasted back-to-back aces and even winning a challenge on a linesman’s call en route to picking up all the points in the match’s opening sequence. He carried the momentum in the second game when he went up 40-15, but that was when Jaziri started to assert himself, saving both break points with a service winner and a picture-perfect cross-court forehand that sent Federer fumbling, before wrapping up the game off the serve.
Those opening scenes somehow dictated the pace for most of the remaining games of the set: Federer serving well but unable to break serve, even with the help from his Tunisian rival, who had a sub-par 38 percent first-serve accuracy.
“I think we were both not playing really well in the beginning. We were both missing a lot of first serves, or him in particular. I couldn’t take advantage,” said Federer.
A double-fault helped the Tunisian to his first pair of break points in the 11th game, and he immediately converted the first when Federer netted a backhand slice, giving Jaziri a chance to serve for the set. Jaziri, who was sidelined since October last year because of an injured left knee, again went up 40-15, this time with the help of a lucky bounce off the net and then proceeded to close out the set by winning a short rally with a gutsy backhand winner deep into the court.
“I think it was good in terms of nerves. Getting out there and having to survive difficult moments,” said Federer, who rose from the opening-set fiasco with a commanding performance in the second set, not allowing Jaziri more than two points in any game to build a 5-0 lead before the Tunisian mounted a serious rally in the sixth.
Jaziri had two game points, but wasted both with a double-fault and a wayward volley.
Egged on by Arab fans in the packed stadium, Jaziri again managed to put up stiff resistance as he finally held serve to start the third set. But Federer broke away from a 2-2 deadlock, yielding just three points to sweep the next three games and claim the match.
“It was a difficult match for me out here tonight,” Federer said. “But I’m happy I found a way. This match I think is helpful at this stage, early season. You’re happy with any win, doesn’t matter how it comes along.”
Federer, who has previously said that he will play only 14 tournaments in 2013 to spend more time with his family and give himself a better chance of prolonging his career, next faces Albert Montanes or Marcel Granollers in the tournament that features six of the world’s top 10 players.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 27, 2013.