For Roger Federer the warning signs have been there. Initially, there were questions of his participation at the Indian Wells tennis event. Then, he looked downright shoddy in the Hit for Haiti spectacle last Friday. On Sunday, he dropped his first set in a win over Victor Hanescu. And last night, it was Marcos Baghdatis’ turn to take a shot at the World No. 1 and the Cypriot delivered the fatal blow.
Baghdatis fended off three matchpoints to stun Federer 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(4) in a third round thriller at the BNP Parisbas Open in Indian Wells on Tuesday. And with that, welcome to March Madness, tennis style.
“Best win of my career,” said Baghdatis. “I think that says everything. I cannot say I’m not happy. I’m very happy. A lot of emotions are going through right now. It’s the best win of my career. I lost a lot of matches against those top guys, and it’s a relief to win a match like that after being out for two years, having some tough moments. It’s a great moment for me. I’ll try to enjoy it.”
Federer appeared to have the match well in hand about an hour in, although I thought Marcos was striking the ball exceptionally well and really moving around the court with fleet ease. Not soon after the match was all but over as Fed held two matchpoints with Bags serving 4-5 in the second. But credit to Marcos who played solid tennis to save the game, break Federer and serve out for the set.
And in a split second it seemed, we suddenly had a match on our hands.
Federer, though, quickly raced ahead in the third 4-1 and again the match looked secured for the Swiss. But Baghdatis was having none of it. He got the break back and saved a third match point later while serving 5-6.
In the deciding breaker Federer continued to pile up errors – 46 all told – as Marcos really stepped his level up and took the match.
“You cannot be aggressive the whole match,” added Baghdatis. “You have to choose the points that you have to be aggressive. You have to be smart. You have to change the game. I think that’s what I did well today. Roger was, I can say, a bit too aggressive. He was missing a lot of balls, and I was more calm than him today.”
Said Federer, “It was a decent match, but maybe wrong choices at the wrong time for me. Maybe going for too much, maybe playing too passively. That’s not something you can really work on. That comes through playing matches, and that’s what I need. I hope to get more of it in Miami, but I will definitely play a lot of practice sets, that’s for sure, until then.”
Credit to Marcos for seizing on the moment to notch his best career win, and his first over Federer in seven tries. Bags has a lot of talent and hopefully this win will inspire and motivate him further to get back to the Top 10. If he can stay healthy there’s no reason that cannot happen.
For Federer, big picture is this loss came at a Tennis Masters, so I don’t think Roger will be losing much sleep. Again, the guy had been shelved for 40 days with the last 20 or so due to a lung infection, so it was a tall ask for him to come into the desert and light up a very strong field.
“It’s something that always is tough, coming from a long layover and all of a sudden playing matches. But, the season is long. There’s no need to panic here,” Fed said after losing his first match in which he had matchpoints since Rome 2006 to Nadal.
In other matches yesterday, Nicolas Almagro posted an impressive 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win over James Blake. Robin Soderling ousted Feliciano Lopez and Andy Murray turned away Michael Russell.
Andy Roddick, who was seeded to meet Federer in the quarterfinals, was a winner over Thiemo De Bakker, and he now meets Juergen Melzer. JW Tsonga dropped the first set but came back to beat Albert Montanes and Tommy Robredo hammered Dudi Sela to set up a meet with Baghdatis.
So today we have a jammed-packed schedule with all eight men’s fourth round matches contested led by Rafael Nadal v. John Isner. We also have Soderling v. Tsonga; Melzer v. Roddick; Murray v. Almagro; Garcia-Lopez v. Monaco; Ivan Ljubicic v. Novak Djokovic; Viktor Troicki v. Tomas Berdych; and, Baghdatis v. Robredo.
Among the lot, Isner and Nadal is the one I’m most interested in. Isner’s been the hot man this season with his towering serve and improved groundstrokes. But Nadal is the defending champ and I just think with his heavy spinner forehand to John’s weaker backhand is going to give the American too many problems. But if Isner can force a couple of tiebreaks things could very well end his way. But he’ll need the breakers because I don’t think he can break Rafa twice.
Melzer gets his 10th crack today to beat Roddick. The Austrian played Andy tough at Wimbledon last year taking him to four, and I think this one goes the distance. Melzer seems to be getting closer and closer to beating Andy, but it’s hard to pick against Roddick here.
And I’ve talk a lot about Djokovic teetering on the brink. I think today he either wins in straights or gets dusted in straights. With Fed now out I think he recognizes the opportunity and gathers his game for the win.
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