Toronto: Federer d. Polansky

by: Peter Bodo | August 05, 2014

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Federer flied through his first match since the Wimbledon final, 6-2, 6-0. (AP Photo)

There were two critical power outages in Canada today. One took place in Montreal, where a blackout affected a quarter-of-a-million people—and many aspects of WTA Rogers Cup tournament, including the electronic line-calling system. The other occurred in Toronto, where Canadian Peter Polansky’s lightweight game proved no match for that of the all-time Grand Slam singles champion, Roger Federer.

Polansky had done a great job in creating an upset of acemaker Jerzy Janowicz in round one, leaving the locals asking each other the question, “Can it get any better than this?”

The answer Federer provided was a resounding “No.” On a night when Montreal’s Eugenie Bouchard was shocked by qualifier Shelby Rogers, Federer first brought Canadians down to earth with a thorough thrashing of Polansky in a mere 52 minutes, 6-2, 6-0.

Federer started the match with a decisive, sharp break in four straight points in the first game of the match. No real surprise there. Polansky had to be nervous playing in front of his fellow countrymen at a time when, suddenly, Canadian tennis matters. What was unexpected, though, is that Polansky broke right back; he could now tell his grandchildren that, once upon a time, he was all square in a match with the great Roger Federer.

Then Federer broke again, and that was it for holding the Swiss master to a standoff. The break point for 2-1 was vintage Federer—an inside-out forehand approach followed by a sweet, Edbergian backhand cross-court volley.

Federer held for 3-1, and in the next game Polansky gamely worked his way to deuce. But the increasingly aggressive Federer chipped and charged the next point and pulled off a feathery forehand stop volley. At break point, he smacked a forehand winner to secure his second break of the match.

Polansky is a pro with few weapons, and that plays right into the hands of a versatile player like Federer. By the time Federer won the sixth game with a forehand, he had eight winners to none by Polansky. In a way, it was all you needed to know.

Still, give Polansky credit; He managed a face-saving hold for 2-5 and then did something few have been capable of when facing Federer. He battled back from a 0-40 deficit, survived four set points, and made Federer look hesitant. In fact, the key shot of the game may have been a buzzkill let-cord forehand drive-volley winner that set up Federer’s final set point—one that he finally converted when Polansky sailed a rally forehand long.

Salting away the set got Federer all puffed up. In the second set, he was even more aggressive, chipping and charging, serving and volleying, imperiously unleashing winners left and right. Now and then, he threw in one of those patented shanked forehands just to remind us he’s human.

Of course, it’s easy to look human against a journeyman like Polansky, a home-nation wild card at this tournament. And while it may not have made much of a difference, keep in mind that at age 18, while serving as a Davis Cup hitting partner at an away tie in Mexico, Polansky went sleepwalking and jumped or fell out of a third-floor window. He sustained life-threatening injuries, and later said that the accident happened because he saw—or dreamed—a knife-wielding intruder crouched in his room.

That Polansky survived and picked up right where he left off in his once promising career (he was one of the top Canadian players until the beginning of the Milos Raonic era) is a tribute to the young man’s drive and courage. And now he has something to tell his grandchildren.

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