Maybe coming home was just what Roger Federer needed to try and find some good form.
Though the Swiss legend lost in the finals of the Swiss Indoors to Juan Martin del Potro in a tight, high quality 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-4 loss, it was his best tournament in months and he displayed some wonderful tennis as well as a gritty determination that has been lacking this year.
Before the tournament began, Federer had only been in 5 semifinals this season (Australian Open, Dubai, Rome, Halle, and Hamburg), and only 2 finals (Rome and Halle). He had lost many matches against players he was favoured to beat, and any time he got a little momentum, it slipped away with a bad loss, usually in an early round. But not this week, not in Basel.
The week started with a fairly routine win over Adrian Mannarino. Then he found himself in some trouble against the dangerous Denis Istomin, down a set. This time, the great champion didn't let another winnable match fall through his fingers, and he played a solid two sets to win the match.
The danger was far from over though, as his quarterfinal opponent was Grigor Dimitrov, who was on a roll and had just won his first career title in Stockholm, against a top 5 player in David Ferrer. In a highly anticipated match between the old and the new, the old guy came out on top, using his experience and court craft to upend the youngster.
The semifinal wasn't any easier; in fact, it proved to be much tougher, against a rising star in Vasek Pospisil, an explosive fresh face who broke through in the summer. The match started out great for the Swiss, but he lost concentration at the worst time, serving for the match, and he lost the second set. In the third, he threw away a service game but fought right back, and fought hard the rest of the way until he eventually won the match. It was the kind of contest he had been losing all year - and it followed many of the same patterns: play great in patches and then out of nowhere, the wheels fall off leaving his fans, and surely even himself, confused and disappointed. But he won this match and gave himself the chance to win his home tournament once more.
As aforementioned, he went up against Del Potro, who has been very in-form recently and could be seen as the 2nd best player on tour since the US Open. Given that the Argentine was in form and Federer had been struggling all year, most expected that the big man would win comfortably.
Del Potro won the match, but it sure was anything but comfortable. He took the first set in a tiebreak after a pair of lucky bounces - one when his shot hit the net and bounced over and the other one a few points later when Federer's shot hit the net and didn't. Roger didn't let losing the first set deter him, however, and he played one of his best sets of tennis all year, taking it 6-2. In the first game of the set he lost serve in a game he practically have away with a few double faults, and though Federer had a couple of break chances the next game, he was denied and Delpo played a great set the rest of the way to grab the title.
When all is said and done, it was a great week for Roger and he can take plenty of positives from it. He won two 3-set matches and he looked like the real Roger Federer against a top player in the prime of his career, and someone who has given him plenty of trouble the last few years. In the match, Fed was hitting cleaner and with more confidence - there were far fewer shanks and mishits than usual this season - and he was serving much better, especially from the deuce side where he had his serve up the T dialed in, and hit many aces with it. He kept up with Del Potro's big and consistent hitting, and he even defended quite well, showing that he was healthy. He also looked very energized and focused, which proves that he really wanted to win the title. Of course he didn't, but there really is nothing to feel bad about when looking back at this past week.
Up next is Paris where Fed needs one win to qualify for the World Tour Finals, and that win will need to come against Kevin Anderson or Mikhail Youzhny, the latter of whom took out David Ferrer in the Valencia final on Sunday. If Roger carries over the same form he showed in the final against Delpo, he should beat either of them, but of course nothing is a given. Even though it looks like Roger might be getting some of his form and confidence back, he has to be focused on keeping it.
If nothing else, doing well in Paris and the World Tour Finals will act as positive reinforcement heading into the offseason where he will be doing everything he can to prepare for what hopes to be a much better 2014 season.
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!