By Jane Voigt
Quite clearly Roger Federer is confident about his game. He used every nuance of his subtle repertoire plus elemental tennis necessities to school Alexandr Dolgopolov on what it takes to win a semifinal at a Masters 1000 tournament.
Federer won 74% of points on his first serve and 83% of points on his second serve. Mighty high stats for the mighty Federer.
“It was one of the best serving days of my life,” Federer told fans after his win.
But what he did in addition elevated this win.
He adapted quickly and easily to the swirling winds and compounded Dolgopolov’s unease through feathered under-spins and simple strategic patterns that lured the Ukrainian into a false confidence, which then forced errors.
“I didn’t adjust to the conditions as well as Federer did,” Dolgopolov said in his press conference.
Alex never did settle down. He never saw a break point. The wind messed up his concentration and, thus, his ability to play freely or anywhere near the level of prior rounds when he defeated Rafael Nadal, Fabio Fognini, and Milos Raonic. Late in the second set, in a game with 7 deuces, Dolgopolov was so rattled about an error he bopped himself on the head with his racquet. He lost that game to give Federer a double break and a 4-1 lead.
Federer won the next game and then broke a diminished Dolgopolov at love to close the match 63 61 in sixty-one minutes.
“I’m playing better at this point in season than I expected,” Doug Robson of USA Today posted to Twitter. “[I] figured I’d be playing this well in April or May.”
Federer will try for his fifth Indian Wells title tomorrow. Given his momentum, he has not dropped a set through the tournament, his chances seem rosy.
His opponent for the final has not been decided. Whether John Isner or Novak Djokovic, Federer has winning records over both: Isner (4-1) and Djokovic (17-15).
Federer thinks playing Isner is more about mental toughness. The American’s huge serve on the slow surface intensifies its ability to handcuff returns. The two faced off in the 2012 final of Indian Wells, which Federer won. Isner had eliminated Djokovic in the semifinals.
Throughout the week speculation has spread that the Big Four is dead or, at least, about to break up. But one tournament of less predictable outcomes has not shaken the foundation of those four top guys, even though only two are really on top — Nadal and Djokovic.
On Monday Federer will rise to at least No. 5 in the world, from his current spot at No. 8. Djokovic’s ranking won’t change and neither will Nadal’s. More relies on what comes out of the Sony Open next week, when Andy Murray will defend his title and points.
With that said, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray certainly are showing cracks in their confidence. Without that a rearrangement of the order could be on the horizon. We probably won’t see hints of it until Roland Garros and Wimbledon.