Dubai: Federer d. Rosol
Facing Lukas Rosol on a tennis court if you’re in the class of a Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal (okay, let’s just forget about that second-rounder at Wimbledon two years ago) must be thrilling in the same way as you or I taking a roller-coaster ride at an amusement park.
At times—especially when Rosol is cracking both serve and forehand—it’s terrifying. But somehow in the back of your mind you know that if you just stay put and clutch that grab-rail, no matter how white your knuckles get, it will all turn out okay. And you can console yourself that whatever else happens, it’s going to be quick. In fact, the entire ride is relatively brief.
So it was today, as Federer sliced and diced an error-prone but fearless Rosol into submission in the quarterfinals in under an hour, 6-2, 6-2.
You have to give Rosol credit for doing exactly the same thing he did, albeit without the same degree of skill or success, against Nadal back in that sensational 2012 upset. He swung from the heels, kept the pressure on, refused to match wits or skills with his rival, and flung himself on the ramparts with an enthusiasm seldom seen among his contemporaries. This time, it didn’t work out so well. Federer merely thrust his spear foward and Rosol impaled himself on its tip.
In the first few games, it seemed for fleeting moments as if Rosol were going to be a load of trouble. He was hitting his forehand at super-sonic speed and earned a break point after starting the match with a hold. He made a good backhand return of a second serve at that point, and Federer hit the always tricky third ball awry. Rosol led 2-0.
But Rosol went over edge in the next game and began to make wild errors. By the time he fell behind 0-40, he had logged eight unforced errors; Federer had none. Soon, his lead melted away after Federer cashed in his second break point in third game. A quick hold then leveled the set at 2-2.
Yet no hold by Federer, no matter how prudent or solid, was going to deter Rosol. This guy plays for keeps, and there was the outside chance that one of those fiery forehands of his would glance off the shaft of Federer’s stick (the guy has been known to shank one now and then) and knock him out cold, rewarding Rosol with a win by default.
No such thing happened over the course of the next three points, and Rosol found himself down double break point. He survived thanks to a forehand winner and an ace, but a forehand error at deuce and a prodigious drive volley error yielded the break to put Federer ahead for good at 3-2.
By the time Federer arrived at his first set point, he’d won 24 of the previous 29 points. He allowed an error then, but finished off the set in 28 minutes with an unreturned serve to the forehand.
In the second set, Rosol survived a break point in the first game and threatened to inconvenience Federer once again with a break in the second. But this time, Federer held serve and went on to forge an easy break for 2-1.
One shot in the next game warrants special mention. At 15-30, with Rosol not quite put away, the men played one of the rare, longer points of the match. After fending off three Rosol passing shots with reflex volleys, Federer was forced to hightail toward his own baseline under a well-hit lob. Federer resisted going for the show-boaty ‘tweener; instead, he ran even to the ball, pivoted 45-degrees, and smacked the equivalent of an inside-out forehand pass just beyond Rosol’s outstretched racquet.
The shot may not make the ATP highlight reel, but it was the wiser choice. And all it did was help Federer win that game for 3-1. That amounted to a prelude to another break that sounded the bell for the end of today’s ride.