If you missed Part 1 of the Season Review series, you can view it here.
If you missed Part 2 of the Season Review series, you can view it here.
If you missed Part 3 of the Season Review series, you can view it here.
15. Swiss Indoors, Basel (500)
Result: Lost in Finals to Juan Martin del Potro (6-7, 6-2, 4-6)
Eventual Winner: Juan Martin del Potro (def. Roger Federer 7-6, 2-6, 6-4)
This was Federer’s hometown tournament, one that he had been a ballboy in many many years ago. After the disappointment in Shanghai where Federer again failed to win a match that was considered relatively easy for him, expectations had dropped. We were intent on taking it one match at a time and so was he. His qualification for the World Tour Finals had not been secured yet and he needed a good showing in Basel and Paris to make it. Fortunately, Federer did not disappoint. Federer won his first round match easily in straight sets against Adrian Mannarino. He lost the first set in his second round match against Denis Istomin, but was never troubled in the last two sets; he won it in three. In the quarter finals, he faced ‘Baby Fed’ Grigor Dimitrov – a man touted to have a style of playing much like Federer himself. Federer responded magnificently in the match, though – beating him in straight sets. He could have sealed the second set earlier in that match, but it is always the result that counts. In the semi-finals, he met Vasek Pospisil who was having his best tournament of the year. That showed when he took the second set after losing the first, based purely on good accurate serving and some hard forehands. Federer clawed his way back into the match and took the final set 7-5 to set up another final in Basel; this time he would face Juan Martin del Potro. In the final, the first set was very tight with either men holding serve – Federer lost the set in a tiebreak, but seemed ready to up his game. He did so in the second set, winning it comfortably 6-2 and the hope for his second title had just gone up a notch. Unfortunately, it was not to be and del Potro gritted it out in the final set. Even though he lost, this was a very positive week for him – he was able to beat the players he was ought to (something he had not been able to do this year consistently), and lost only to a Top-10 player having his best year since an injury.
16. BNP Paribas Masters, Paris-Bercy (1000 Masters)
Result: Lost in Semifinals to Novak Djokovic (6-4, 3-6, 2-6)
Eventual Winner: Novak Djokovic (def. David Ferrer 7-5, 7-5)
Federer only needed to beat his second round opponent Kevin Anderson in Paris to qualify for the World Tour Finals; but he did so much more. He started well, winning his opening two matches in straight sets and displaying the sort of indoor form we know him to have. He was hitting stinging forehands and his serve was coming back, but it was still not as consistent as it was in his prime – but that’s obvious, since he’s not in his prime. When you get older, the luck factor is a bit more of a necessity for you to win matches against people who are in their prime. In the quarter-finals, he met Juan Martin del Potro again and this time, you knew Federer wanted to exact revenge. He came racing out of the blocks and completely outplayed del Potro in the first set taking it 6-3. del Potro weathered the storm in the second set, however, displaying his own brand of smashing tennis to take it 6-4 and set up a thrilling decider. In the final set, Federer did not lose it like he did in Basel, and he held his nerve to come up with the goods when it was needed; he had finally beaten a Top-10 player after such a long time. He would draw much confidence from this win and this set up a semi-final with Novak Djokovic; this was to be their first match this year. Again, in the semis, Federer raced out of the blocks and was hitting everything within the court – the forehand, the backhand, the serve, everything seemed to be working and he won the first set 6-4. However, Djokovic showed just why he has been dominating the sport for the past 2 years (save for Nadal’s comeback this year) and he simply was too hard to beat – in the second and third set, he made almost no unforced errors and Federer’s shots started becoming more wayward. With a break early in the third, he sealed the win. Federer again had a good tournament, and two good results back-to-back meant he would enter the World Tour Finals with a lot of confidence.
17. Barclays ATP World Tour Finals
Result: Lost in Semifinals to Rafael Nadal (5-7, 3-6)
Eventual Winner: Novak Djokovic (def. Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-4)
Federer was drawn in the tougher of the two groups – his group had Gasquet, Djokovic and del Potro whereas the other group had Nadal, Wawrinka, Berdych and Ferrer. His first match was a rematch of the Paris semi-final as he faced Novak again. This time, he did not have such a good start and ended up losing the first set 4-6. But, this was the O2 arena, a place where Federer had won and had been a finalist, respectively, for the past two years, and he was not going to just give it up. Federer fought back in the second, winning it in the tiebreak 7-6. But then, it fell apart. Just as in Paris, Djokovic got the early break in the second set, and Federer just could not fight back from that. Another break, and Djokovic won the match 6-4, 6-7, 6-2. It was a good performance nevertheless, and it was against the No. 2 player in the world. In his second match, Federer played Gasquet and routined him 6-4, 6-3 which was very uplifting – Gasquet was a Top-10 player, and the ease with which Federer dismantled his game was pleasing. With Djokovic beating del Potro in their match, it meant that the final match between Federer and del Potro was a straight shoot-out for a place in the semis. del Potro won the first set in that match 6-4, but you could see it in Federer’s eyes and his demeanour – he wanted it. His desire was apparent, and he showed a lot of emotion on-court, which as you would know, he hasn’t been known to do. He won the next two sets 7-6 and 7-5 and sealed a place in the semis. Federer said after the match that he was very happy with his performance, and so were all of us. Two Top-10 victories in the space of two days – this was a real high for Federer.
In the semifinals however, we felt he had no chance against a rested Rafael Nadal – Federer had just played a marathon three-setter against del Potro the previous night. However, he started well and even saved set points in the first set at 4-5 down to claw his way back to 5-5. But, he lost his serve again in the next game and Nadal served it out. In the second set, the tiredness showed as his forehands started becoming more wayward, and his serve percentage dropped. Eventually, Nadal won 7-5, 6-3 but this was not a blemish in Federer’s record – his confidence was on the rise, and the indoor season had certainly contributed to that.
In the final, Nadal was schooled by Djokovic – a source of great pleasure, personally.
The indoor season certainly gave Federer fans (and Federer himself) many reasons to be optimistic about 2014. Federer starts his 2014 season in Brisbane, a tournament he has never played. The surface there is very similar to Melbourne, so I expect that a good showing in Brisbane will be the perfect preparation for Melbourne. The field in Brisbane isn’t anything Federer can’t handle, with Nishikori, Simon and Anderson the Top-20 players there.
I still expect Federer to make the quarter-finals in the Australian Open – he will be well-rested after the off-season, and if he manages to shrug off any and all injury problems, he should be primed to win four matches at least. Since he won’t be a Top-4 seed this year, he would ideally like to be drawn in Ferrer’s quarter because the surface at Melbourne means it would take something superhuman to beat either of Nadal, Djokovic or Murray there.
This is the last part of the Season Review Series for 2013. Hope you liked it; please leave a comment below – they are much appreciated. My next post will probably be when Federer releases his schedule for 2014. Do you think Federer will play Davis Cup in 2014?