Palm Springs is a popular destination for retirees, but Roger Federer turned the court into hard labor for the eternally-young Tommy Haas tonight. Jerking his opponent side-to-side, Federer was moving forward when Haas hit a running forehand pass that skimmed the net and settled inside the sideline, bringing some members of the crowd to its feet while the 11th-seeded German avoided a collision with court-side photographers.
That rigorous exchange highlighted the degree of difficulty the 35-year-old veteran faced tonight: Once Federer took control with his forehand, Haas often had to produce dazzle from obscure areas to salvage points.
Playing his most complete match of the tournament, Federer dispatched his good friend and old rival, 6-4, 6-4, to cruise into the Indian Wells quarterfinals for the ninth time before an enthusiastic crowd that included BNP Paribas Open owner Larry Ellison, actress Elisabeth Shue, and U.S. Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez, who served double duty as babysitter for Federer's twin daughters, Charlene and Myla.
The twins watched their famous father's version of a play date. The server controlled play through the first four games, but Federer made his move in the fifth. A pulsating 30-shot rally ended with Federer sailing a forehand long. Neither man had much time to catch his breath when Federer pulled the string on a forehand drop shot as exchanges escalated in a 10-minute game. A Haas double-fault followed by a forehand floated long resulted in the break as Haas spiked the ball in frustration falling behind 2-3—the first of three straight breaks.
Standing toe-to-toe in a crunching baseline exchange, a 24-shot rally ended on a Federer forehand error as Haas broke back for 3-all. But Haas, wearing blue kinesiology tape tape around his strained serving shoulder, gave Federer four break-back chances despite fighting off triple break point in the seventh game. Over-hitting his backhand down the line, he dropped serve for the second straight time as Federer edged in front 4-3.
Closing with confidence, Federer rolled through a love hold to conclude the 43-minute opening set in which he won nine of 10 trips to net and doubled Haas' winner output, 12 to six.
The beauty of the Federer forehand is his skill in generating more spin and speed when he needs it without discernibly steepening or lengthening his swing. At times, Federer's down-the-line forehand danced with doses of topspin, sidespin, and pace, making the ball bounce as if it intended to boomerang back to his side of the court.
Freezing Haas with depth, Federer drove a diagonal forehand winner to convert his fourth break point and snatch a 3-2 second-set lead. Sliding his seventh ace of the evening out wide, the four-time champion sealed the win in style. "Too good," Haas said greeting Federer in the post-match handshake. It's become the standard parting remark as Federer, who won 15 of 19 trips to net, stretched his winning streak to nine matches.
It's a win that should resonate with the seventh-seeded Swiss, who had been pushed to tiebreakers in three of his four prior sets. Federer faces another formidable test in Kevin Anderson, who defeated his doubles partner, Stanislas Wawrinka, in the fourth round. Federer swept Anderson, 6-4, 6-4, in their lone prior meeting at the Paris Indoors last fall.