Following Roger Federer’s majestic victory at the Miami Masters, James Spencer dissects the Swiss great’s brilliant start to the 2019 campaign.
Federer is loved throughout the world, but he does have a few critics. However, even the detractors will admit that he has been absolutely exceptional this season.
At January’s Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia, he overcame the likes of Alexander Zverev, Frances Tiafoe and Stefanos Tsitsipas with ease. These wins helped power Switzerland to a fourth Hopman Cup.
His successful partnership with Belinda Bencic was magnificent and his mentoring of his young compatriot has certainly boosted her singles career performances as she went on to win the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship a few weeks later.
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After Switzerland’s successful Hopman Cup defence, Federer’s performance in the Australian Open was fine. He did not play badly in the last 16, he was just beaten by an inspired opponent in Stefanos Tsitsipas, who arguably played the match of his life.
Federer is so good at compartmentalising disappointments and staying in the present even when the pressure and expectations are high. He was the two-time defending champion in Australia after his legendary 2017 and 2018 triumphs, but after exiting early he brushed himself off and went again in Dubai.
Many of the top seeds may have fallen early, but the 37-year-old still beat some very good players en route to winning his 100th career title. A very special moment for the Swiss and all the hard work he has put in throughout his career. Beating Tsitsipas in the final, after his Australian Open defeat to the Greek youngster, must have made the victory even sweeter for the Swiss legend.
Then came the American hard-court season and Federer played very well at both the Indian Wells Masters and the Miami Open. Obviously, the major difference being he lost the final in Indian Wells to Dominic Thiem but was successful in Miami beating John Isner in the final.
If you analyse both tournaments, Federer has always played well at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. He has won a joint-record five titles in the Californian desert, winning the 2017 final against Stan Wawrinka most recently. However, he did hold match points against Juan Martin del Potro in his defeat in last year’s final and so, losing to Thiem in three sets was not the end of the world.
Yes, he did win the first set and will be disappointed in the manner that he lost, because he probably knows he can play better. It was also Thiem’s first Masters 1000 victory so the Swiss could maybe have taken advantage of those nerves.
However, Federer and his support team are very, very good at looking at the bigger picture. He didn’t drop a set on his way to the final and beat top players such as Britain’s Kyle Edmund and his friend and rival Stan Wawrinka.
So, all in all it was a successful tournament for Federer. Plus, most crucially, no ranking points were dropped. He defended the exact number of points he had from getting to last year’s showpiece final against Del Potro.
As for the Miami Open, the way he dealt with the disappointment following a tight loss in a very big Masters 1000 tournament, Indian Wells, was admirable. He didn’t let it get him down, he bounced straight back into the next even so for that Federer should be commended.
Another philosophical strength of Federer’s is that he could easily have rested on his laurels following his 100th career success in Dubai, but he didn’t. His motivation to carry on winning is something that sets him apart from many past players.
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Back to the Miami win, Federer should be over the moon at his latest triumph. Not only did it win him a first Masters 1000 in 17 months, but it also netted him an incredible 28th Masters 1000 title.
Only Djokovic on 33 Masters trophies and Nadal with 32 Masters 1000 victories have won more than the Swiss.
Federer will undoubtedly take immense satisfaction from beating the defending champion Isner, albeit the American suffered an unfortunate knee injury in the final, and winning his 101stcareer title. The win took him back to No 4 in the world.
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So, having played four tournaments and won two, Federer and his team should be immensely satisfied with the start he has made to this season. It could only have been bettered by his 2017 start when he won the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami, with just the slight blip in Dubai.
But being two years older at 37, Federer will take this all day long. Winning in Dubai and Miami at his age is a spectacular achievement. Now he can rest appropriately and spend time with his family ahead of his exciting clay-court season comeback.
His next goals will be for a good showing at the Madrid Open and Roland Garros on his long-awaited return to the red dirt. Both tournaments will put vital ranking points on the board. Then he will target a 21st Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, a special place for the Swiss as he has won a record eight times there.
Another goal is possibly chasing down Jimmy Connors’ record of 109 career titles but for now Federer’s legion of fans will be happy at the way he continues to defy time and logic.
Follow James Spencer on Twitter @JamesTennis17
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