As Roger Federer, 33, and Vasek Pospisil, 24, stood across the net from each other to start their second-round match in Cincinnati on Wednesday, the weight of career history tilted severely to one side of the court. As a Tennis Channel graphic showed, Federer came in with 967 match wins and 79 titles, compared to 42 and zero for Pospisil. Still, for two sets there wasn’t much to separate the Swiss legend from the baby-faced Canadian neophyte. Then, in the third, Federer showed again why he has the record he has, as he eased away for a 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-2 win.
Federer and Pospisil started the match with 23 straight service holds. Just carving out break-point opportunities was difficult; each had a paltry three through the first two sets. Neither could do much with the other’s first serves, and with Cincy’s bouncy courts adding a little extra height to their kicks, they did almost as little on second balls—Pospisil won just 19 percent of points on Federer’s second delivery.
From the baseline, the tennis was aggressive and erratic, especially from Pospisil’s side: He finished with 34 winners and 43 errors, compared to 25 of each from Federer. Both players tried to come forward, with OK results: Pospisil was 11 of 19 at the net, Federer 15 of 25. Most important, though, as the match progressed, Pospisil’s serve regressed. He threw in nine double faults (Federer had none), and sealed the match for his opponent by committing two of them to lose serve at 1-3 in the third set.
A Federer adjustment early in the third helped turn the match from a dogfight into a runaway. With Pospisil serving at 1-1, Federer, unable to make any inroads on Pospisil's serve, backed up and tried looping the ball high and deep. On break point, Pospisil, forced to generate all of his own pace, sent a forehand over the baseline and lost his serve for the for the first time.
The ice had been cracked, and soon it would break apart completely for Pospisil, who may have been a little gassed after playing a three-setter the previous day. Federer, the only Toronto semifinalist to survive his opening round in Cincy, won his 300th match at a Masters event, and brought his career win total one closer to the thousand mark. He'll try to get another against either Gael Monfils or Roberto Bautista Agut.