Roger Federer picked up some steam in the first week of the Australian Open with a solid 6-2, 6-1, 7-6(4) win over Slovenian Blaz Kavcic in the second round of the first major of the year.
If Federer started a little tentatively in his first round match, he came out guns a'blazing in this one and quickly got out to a dominant two set lead, only dropping three of 15 games. He was aggressive off the ground, firm on the return, and put his unique stamp on his opponent right from the first point.
In the third Roger's level dropped ever so slightly and Kavcic started to play a little better (9 of his 14 winners came in this set). A tiebreak was needed and Fed got down a mini-break but he stormed back to win 7 of the last 8 points to book his place in the third round.
The third set was worse than the first two, granted. But if you look at it this way, he hit 12 errors in 8 games in the first, and 17 errors in 12 games in the third (plus an 11-point tiebreak). Kavcic raised his level in that last set but Fed was still playing decently.
If I was Stefan Edberg I would be telling Fed that the way he played in the match is the blueprint for what he will need to do in this tournament to have success (and after this, for the whole season). The serve was clicking (76% in), he was aggressive off the ground and in approaching the net, and he was moving well (and when he is moving well, he remains more patient). Plus, he was more aggressive off the return, which helped him break frequently.
If Roger is going to beat Tsonga and Murray, he will need to serve well, take his chances off the ground when they are given, and he must return well. Now, to return well doesn't always mean hitting over the return, but it is vital to mix up hitting over the ball and slicing or chipping under it. Variety and unpredictability are Roger's two best friends right now in his career. This also applies to his baseline game. Over the course of a match he can't slug it out with Tsonga or Murray any longer from the back, but at the same time he can't charge the net every time he feels like it - those two are too good with passes, as are many in the game today. But knowing when to stay back and when to come in will help give him an advantage against those tougher foes. I believe he brought in Edberg to help with those kinds of tactical situations, since the Swede was the finest volleyer the game has ever seen.
Elsewhere in the draw, del Potro lost to Roberto Bautista Agut, so Nadal's chances of making the semifinals took a vertical raise. Rafa took out the young Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis in straights, but watch out for the youngster in the next 5 years.
Andy Murray won the final 23 points in his win over Frenchman over Vincent Millot, while there was more disappointment for the Aussie crowd as 18 year-old Nick Kyrgios lost a two-set lead to Benoit Paire and was defeated. The kid has a bright future.
As for Federer, he will face Teymuraz Gabashvili, who took out major under-achiever Fernando Verdasco in five sets. Fed should win in straights, but playing well is very important because Tsonga very likely awaits in the round of 16.
Til next time,
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!