Are we sure it is not hurricane season in Australia? Unless I was hallucinating for the past hour and a half, I could guarantee I witnessed a category 5 Swiss cyclone named Roger Federer thrash Tomas Berdych on Rod Laver Arena.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion showed no mercy and cruised to a robust 6-2 6-4 6-4 victory against the No. 10 player in the ATP rankings in 90 minutes of surgical work. Federer will face fifth seed Kei Nishikori next for a spot in the quarterfinals.
Federer won 39 out of the 41 points played with his first serve, a magnificent 95% rate. Not a single deuce was reached when it was the Basel native’s turn to initiate play. I counted three times when, at 30-all, Federer fired an ace. Berdych was never close to troubling him.
My hypothesis that break point conversion would tilt the matchup one way or the other was somewhat confirmed, thus turning into an empirically proven theory. Well, maybe not proven, but it was certainly accurate.
On the one hand, Federer only generated five break points throughout the match. That’s well short of his 10.25 average in his previous five Grand Slam wins over the hard-hitting Czech.
On the other hand, he capitalized on four of those chances, an astounding 80% conversion rate. In the second and third sets, the four-time Australian Open winner broke his opponent’s serve right off the bat. Federer’s superiority on serve did the rest.
Two Far-Fetched Ideas to Explain this Exhibition
- Can anybody certify that Federer has not found a time machine and he has been secretly using it in Dubai for the last six months? Please, someone check his birth certificate. How is it legal for a 35-year-old to play at this level? We shall remind ourselves he would be eligible to play the ATP Champions Tour let alone any ITF-sanctioned 35 & over tournament. That is ridiculous. Back in Sacramento, DeMarcus Cousins agrees.
- Maybe David Goffin provided Federer the magic potion that helped him double bagel Berdych at 2016 Rome Masters 1000. Former coach Dani Vallverdu was abruptly terminated after that embarrassing loss. I wonder how nervous Goran Ivanisevic is about his job security…
Ivanisevic's face after the RF backhand 🙄 pic.twitter.com/Lz9dyRTeKX
Fantasy Tennis League Implications
Considering his reduced schedule in 2017 and the uncertainty surrounding his health, the $12.08 million price tag to nab Federer seemed quite expensive. His shaky play against Jürgen Melzer and Noah Rubin did nothing but increase the doubts of the stakeholders. And a bumpy road potentially featuring Berdych, Kei Nishikori and Andy Murray back-to-back-to-back could only undermine the investment, right?
Imagine someone decided to downgrade the mighty Federer to key or even role player, opting to name someone with a theoretically easier path like Nick Kyrgios as team captain (+50% bonus points)? Wouldn’t that have seemed wise last Sunday?
I took that foolish decision and I want to shoot myself in the foot as I’m writing these lines. Let’s face it, I deserve to be sent to the Roman galleys and row until extenuation next to Judah Ben Hur.
Nishikori up next
Federer will play on Sunday in the round of 16 versus Nishikori, whom he leads 4-2 in the head-to-head.
Despite having won the previous three duels, the Swiss is aware the Japanese star poses a real threat to his aspirations.
“[Nishikori] has probably the best backhand in the business,” Federer told Jim Courier courtside. “I have my work cut out for me.”
If he is able to sustain today’s level, the sky is the limit.