WIMBLEDON, England—It’s not often that Roger Federer’s silky slices and sharp-angled backhands can be made to look pedestrian. It’s been done before, but performances like Juan Martin del Potro’s in the 2009 U.S. Open final and Rafael Nadal’s in the 2008 French Open final are rare.
Yet the patrons on Centre Court were treated to such a moment earlier today—but if you think it was Victor Hanescu who delivered it, you’re sorely mistaken. Federer made some of his own stylish shotmaking look ordinary after a jaw-dropping reflex volley in the match’s first game. It looked like it was hit behind his back from my vantage point; no matter the execution, it was an elegant improvisation that sealed the first game, and was a precursor to the defending champion sealing Hanescu’s fate. In just 69 minutes, Federer overwhelmed his overmatched opponent, 6-3, 6-2, 6-0.
Hanescu did play a small part in that example of Federer wizardry—he hit the drop shot that forced the seven-time champion to venture forward. But even calling Hanescu a supporting actor in his horror film might be generous. The Romanian showed no weapons at all in this match, his one-handed backhand merely a means to keep the ball in play, not to guide it with any sense of purpose. Such tactics were monopolized by Federer, who assumed control of nearly every rally and was almost flawless on serve, winning 90 percent of his first-serve points. He was taken to deuce once, when he was already leading by a set and 3-0. By any measure, tangible or visual, this was as one-sided a contest as you could ask for.
About the only thing that went well for Hanescu on this day was when the chair umpire decided to not call a let on him when a ball fell out of his shorts during play. Federer had just hit what would be the final shot of the rally—it was heading long and would land out—and it was at that time that a second yellow orb was spotted on the court. With the point clearly going Hanescu’s way, it was left to stand; Federer inquired politely, but to no avail.
Now, if you’ll compare the quality of that point to the one I first described, you’ll simultaneously get a scope of the chasm in quality put forth by these two today. Hanescu ceded serve to Federer after winning the coin toss, and ceded pretty much everything else once the first ball was struck.
IBM is a proud sponsor and official technology partner for Wimbledon. For more information on this match, including the Keys to the Match, visit IBM's SlamTracker.