Roger Federer returned to the hardcourts with a 6-3, 7-6(7) win over 26th ranked Philipp Kohlschreiber in Cincinnati, where the Swiss Maestro has won five of the last eight years.
After the troubles with his back in Hamburg and Gstaad, and the general poor form over the last few months, there were some questions to be answered heading into this match. Roger didn't come back with a bang, but he did win in straight sets against a talented top 30 player, so it's a start.
The first set went smoothly enough as Roger served well and never looked uncomfortable. He wasted six break point chances in one game but the next time he had a chance he converted to go up 4-2. His back looked like a non-issue which is a very positive sign and his net play was very good, and he even used a little bit of serve-volley. It must be said that Kohlschreiber played an abysmal set and showed no self-belief on the court.
In the second, the German improved his play and broke in the sixth game when Roger double faulted on break point. However, I had a feeling Fed would break right back and he did. The set went to a tiebreak which Roger went down 2-0 but then reeled off five straight points, up a mini-break. Kohlschreiber got back to even though and saved the first match point he faced. He then had a set point in which Roger served wide and forced an errant reply, but the ball was actually out, and there was no challenge. A lucky break for Fed at such a crucial point, but perhaps that is what he needs at the current time. He converted on his second match point for an unimpressive but businesslike win.
A win is a win, and right now, that is what Roger needs, no matter how pretty or ugly they may be. There were some negative signs, but there were also many positive signs that I saw - his serving, net game, and movement (and overall health). It was the kind of match where he was shaking off rust and at the same time felt little pressure from his opponent. His average service game lasted around 90 seconds the whole match, so that tells you how easily he was holding with the exception of the one break he surrendered.
Next up is Tommy Haas and Roger will need to improve his game there, but I have no doubt that he will. He knows this is a crucial point in the season and he needs a good run here.
This is my tennis blog, Lefty Advantage. Tennis is my biggest passion in life and I started this site to discuss the great game. I mainly follow the career of Roger Federer, but I truly love watching all tennis, whether it be the final of a Grand Slam or a junior tournament on the other side of the world.
I have played tennis for 13 years. If you ever met me, I could talk your head off about all things tennis for hours on end if you would let me. Welcome, and enjoy the writing!