By Jane Voigt
March 12, 2018 — Tennis Channel commentator Jim Courier made a rather bold statement yesterday. He said Filip Krajinovic would give Roger Federer his toughest match yet at the BNP Paribas Open. Not quite.
“It was a good match from me,” Federer said, as reported by ubitennis.com. “But I expected a much tougher [match] clearly. I know Filip can play much better. I just tried to stretch the lead.”
Federer is now 14-0 for the year, having thrashed the Serbian 6-2, 6-1 in less than an hour. The hour marker is important, too, considering the lengths of time other matches have extended. But Federer demonstrated control, tactics specially served up for the court’s gritty surface, and flairs of showmanship that dazzled.
“That’s glorious,” Courier sighed, as Federer swept a rolling backhand cross-court winner into the deuce court’s side pocket, during the second set.
Perfect he wasn’t, but aggressive he was. He won 89% of successful first serves and 53% of successful second serves. Krajinovic earned 52% and 29%.
“I think mine [serve] was good, Filip’s wasn’t so good and things went quickly,” Federer said. “He hasn’t got the biggest serve out there, so you get a lot of looks to break. When you have momentum on your side not only are you serving better, you’re better from the baseline.”
Unforced errors for some players have reached astronomical heights — over 50 for three sets with winners way below that mark. On a faster court that comparison could be attributed to slap-happy whirlwind tennis when players buy points through high-risk tactics. But not in Indian Wells. Federer, though, hit 24 winners and 10 unforced errors today.
“When my opponents lose points I do pay a little bit of attention,” Federer began. “Especially when their reaction comes right after the shot. You can see frustration, especially the misses off slices.”
Two variables at this tournament that trip up players — the ultra-slow court and the thin desert air, which can propel balls to Palm Springs and beyond — are not as much of a factor for Federer. According to Tennis Channel, the courts at this tournament are almost as slow as Roland Garros, which is European red clay.
Federer, though, used them to his advantage as if they were mere components to fit in his tactical formula for the day. He’s not the only player who reacts well to these courts and conditions, but he’s one of the few who does so consistently. At 36 he remains fascinated by the intricacies of his game, or as he might say ’the game,’ and how they affect his overall strategy and goal — winning the match.
“I was able to mix up stuff with a slice, drop shots and some spin,” he added, as if the world was there for the taking.
Of course his type of play, strategic thinking and endurance should be part and parcel of the number one player in the world, his record since returning after a 7-month layoff in 2017 is 65-5. Federer’s clearly in another world when it comes to figuring out the best way to win.
Federer meets Frenchman Jeremy Chardy in the round of sixteen. They’ve played four times, Federer winning all but one. Chardy is a much more polished player than Krajinovic, who has spent months away from the game due to injury. Chardy’s forehand is whippy and his serve versatile. For Federer, though, those game characteristics will be part of the fun figuring out a winning strategy.