It’s a big time showdown for the Rotterdam title on Sunday as Roger Federer meets Juan Martin Del Potro. But it very nearly didn’t happen.
While Del Potro crushed Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-1, Federer found himself in a dogfight against the renewed Nikolay Davydenko.
In a matchup of 30-year-olds, filled with momentum swings, Federer finally prevailed 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
“Everything started to get better midway through the second set, and that’s very encouraging going into the final tomorrow,” Federer said afterward.
The Swiss was on the brink of defeat late in the third as Davydenko enjoyed three break chances at 0-40 to go up 5-3, but Federer somehow held for 4-4, broke the Russian and then closed it out.
“Even though I was down 0-40, I knew it wasn’t over and that I still had a shot,” Federer said. “I had a winner’s mindset. Sometimes you don’t have those days, but, I believed I could still win and I think that got me over the finish line.”
Meanwhile, Del Potro’s been nothing short of a wrecking ball the last two days losing a total of five games to Viktor Troicki and Berdych. Five!
And that doesn’t auger well for Federer who was making a lot of errors, missing some easy shots today and overall getting pushed around by an inferior Davydenko.
But Federer has won eight of 10 against the big Argentine including a straight set victory in Melbourne last month. That match was closer than the score indicated and Del Potro is clearly playing better now and playing the better tennis of the two. So I give DelPo a very, very good chance here – in fact he’s probably the favorite.
But for some reason I’ll take Federer to pull out the win, somehow. Other than the US Open and London Finals, both going the distance and won by DelPo, Federer has dominated this series and I think he’s got a mental lock on Juan Martin. We’ll see if it happens again tomorrow.
Win or lose, it’s clear now Del Potro’s going to be a force this tennis season, and that’s a great news. Maybe he can shake things up at the top.
In San Jose, another force, a budding one at that, is Milos Raonic who’s back into the San Jose final after a very convincing 7-6, 6-2 win over Ryan Harrison. Watching Raonic today it’s hard not to see him eventually holding up a US Open title in the next 2-3 years. The 21-year-old’s serve is getting better and harder, if that’s possible. He’s already got the poise. And he can really stick those groundstrokes, especially the forehand.
The big IF with Canadian is his health, otherwise I’d be really surprised if he wasn’t Top 10 by the end of the year.
“His serve is obviously one of the best in the game. Indoors, it’s definitely not easier,” said Harrison who saw 20 Raonic aces fly by.
Added Raonic, “In the offseason, I didn’t spend too many days working on the serve. It was more so the return of serve game. And I worked on every aspect, from the baseline to the net. I know when I have time, I try to focus a bit more on the return game and keep improving there.”
Once he establishes more of a return game, might No. 1 be in his future in…late 2014?
Raonic will be the heavy favorite to repeat against either Julien Benneteau or Denis Istomin.
And in South America, Nicolas Almagro will try to successfully defend his Sao Paulo title against Filippo Volandri.
So that’s three players all trying to defend their titles tomorrow – Raonic (SJ), Almagro (SP) and Federer is defending his Rotterdam win from 2005.
Finally, the women’s final in Doha is set and it features the last two Grand Slam champions, World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka and Sam Stosur. Azarenka has won 16 straight matches and all five meetings against Stosur. But the Belarussian did tweak her ankle today in a semifinal win over Radwanska so perhaps some intrigue.
Tennis Channel has live coverage of Federer-Del Potro from Rotterdam at 8am ET and the Raonic San Jose final at 6pm ET. Tape delay of the Doha final will be shown at 10:30am ET.
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