If you didn’t watch the Federer v Bedene match, here’s your take-away, according to the ATP website and probably a bunch of tweets and other media. As I write this post, that’s the main page story, which sounds just delightful.
The match was not a masterclass. Bedene resisted once the first set was in the books. Federer’s serve came back to earth and the British/Slovenian made Federer work pretty hard for holds, extended rallies successfully and was it not for some of his own errors could have made things even more interesting. Federer’s DTL BH wasn’t punishing and his running FH continues to be a bit of a vulnerability.
You know we like Federer’s tennis, but this wasn’t all that. Federer had 2-3 SP on Bedene’s serve to close this out more convincingly, but the Slovenian held tough. He has to be fairly pleased with his play vs. the heavily favored Swiss #2.
But of course these early-round matches can be tough little hurdles to clear, certainly wanting to make quick work and get to recovery, especially for a 36 year-old who looks 36 years-old. But it’s Federer, so it’s a world class 36.
I recall in the second set, as Bedene is not going away, Federer comes mid-court where he can pretty much go anywhere to finish his opponent, but he attempts a little cut drop shot, which Bedene actually read — the ball didn’t make it over the net. Camera cut to Federer’s box and I wish I could post a shot of Ivan’s subtle bewilderment. What was that? That’s Federer blinking.
None the less, nice straight-set win.
Djokovic — I saw the last two sets — looked fresh and untouchable according to Donald Young. That American brought a big bag or errors to their match. He certainly made life easy on the Serb. But Novak looked good, granted a little rusty here and there. Still, the depth of his ground strokes, consistently, remains one of the more brutal tests of the game. What’s more intimidating, Novak’s serve or ROS? That’s a rhetorical question. He didn’t look his 2016 best, but first match back in the saddle, and he looks to be progressing nicely — he won and prepares now for the unpredictable Monfils.
Better than Nadal, watching Novak chase down a “winner” and make his opponent try again is a pretty remarkable watch. Guys like Young simply can’t deal with that kind of character.
But, as one of the commentators pointed-out, the Novak serve is good, but doesn’t look to a be much of an improvement — he’s more or less preserving the elbow here. In other words, the new serve seems injury-induced rather than some kind of improved technique. Questions, of course, still in the air for Djokovic, but he’s not alone. Hearing the Federer call talk about him being the over-whelming favorite is such bozo balloons.
Anyone catch Juan v Frances? I watched only the first set, but that was enough. The Argentinian knew he needed to take care of business here against a good, young player. Raising his level just enough to get the break in the first was the story here. Juan looks fresh (after looking a little out of sorts in the Auckland final) and moves on, but have you seen his draw? He has Khachanov next, then Berdych (who gave a free clinic to the Aussie prodigy, de Minaur, going 0 and 1 to close and ruin any of that 2018 AO hope from Hewitt II), and then Goffin — before the Federer QF, if that transpires. Juan has some work to do, but looks capable of coming through.
Also, in my assessment of the Auckland final, I did concede (having criticized Del Potro’s form on the eve of a major) that the ASB Classic had a little more meaning for Roberto Agut. To be specific: “Such a class act is the Spaniard. Cool to see his emotions following the win. Juan has bigger fish to fry, so one can sense how meaningful a title like this is for Roberto, his second ASB Classic title.”
RBA didn’t survive his R1 v Verdasco.
Looking ahead to tonight (PST):
The Dimitrov/Kyrgios quarter really does boil-down to that R16 match, if it materializes. Rublev may be a huge long-shot there, but if he has the gas, he probably gives Dimitrov his money’s worth (our money’s worth) — a nice clean spanking from the Bulgarian there would bode well for his mental AO make-up.
Kyrgios should be fine as long as he keeps it together. He got one violation in his first match, telling a fan to STFUP. Troicki today and then he has the winner of Tsonga v Shapovalov. Wow. If the Canadian can get by Jo Willy, that could be a nice little R32 affair. Can the long-blonde get under Kyrgios’ skin? The 18 year-old certainly has big-boy tennis and the one-hander is always a pleasure. But he has to beat the wiley old Jo Willy first. Tough match for the youngster later today.
But the bottom of that quarter is implosion. That’s the territory Sock vacated (which I more or less predicted). The Istomin v Edmund match could have some consequence on that bracket. Edmund seems like he could make a little run there, but the goggled 31 year-old Istomin will probably have something to say about that.
Nadal gets another refreshing glass of lemonade in his R64 picnic: Leo Mayer. Someone remind them this isn’t clay. Nadal had the same match-up in R32 2017 USO.
Simon v Carreno Busta is another Nadal fortune though neither stands a real chance in this draw. But it gets rid of even one long-shot threat.
The beat goes on.