He finally won a big title!
Since Federer won his 5th Cincinnati Masters title two seasons ago over Novak Djokovic, he had gone 2-9 in final matches since. Last week in Toronto he lost playing horrid baseline tennis. In the Wimbledon final, he should have lost in 4 and so nearly pulled the rabbit out of the hat. In Monte Carlo, he lost a 2nd set tiebreak to Wawrinka that would have won him the match. In Indian Wells, he lost a 3rd set breaker. In Brisbane, he lost a tight but sloppy match to longtime friend and foe, Lleyton Hewitt. In Basel last fall, he lost a tight 3-set match to Juan Martin del Potro. In Rome, he was overmatched by Nadal. At the World Tour Finals in 2012, he lost a close one to Djokovic in straights. And finally, in Basel he lost a 3rd set breaker to del Potro.
In all but one of those 9 finals, he had his chances to win. Some he maybe should have won. But through this bad history since his last Masters title, he managed to win in a hard-fought battle against a man he had never lost to, David Ferrer. Even with the man across the net having never won the final point against him, it was a big match, and Roger knew it.
The Swiss started the final pretty well, and broke the Spaniard's serve midway through the set. Things got tight for him when he went down 0-40 at 5-3 but he managed to save those break points and eventually held. At that point, I doubt many envisioned the second set going the way it did, with Ferrer winning it 6-1 after taking a shocking 5-0 lead. It was even more surprising because Roger had break points in the opening game. But once the set was out of reach, Roger saved his energy and didn't spent too much of it trying to win a virtually unwinnable set. It was important, however, that he held his serve at 0-5 so he could start the 3rd set on serve. He saved a few break points, but he did win it, and that would make a big difference.
The difference between the 2nd and 3rd sets was almost immediate. In the 2nd, Ferrer was dictating the rallies by hitting his heavy inside-out forehand to the Federer backhand, getting it to kick up and forcing short balls. In the third, Federer wasn't letting that happen as he started hitting bigger, cleaner, and more aggressively. He got the crucial break at 2-1, and emphatically held. One might have been worried when he didn't take his break chances at 2-4 to go up the double break, but they would have worried for nothing, as he held comfortably and broke to take his biggest tournament win in the last 24 month on the dot.
Credit to Ferrer, because he played gritty and persistent attacking tennis, and thoroughly deserved the 2nd set (and he could have gotten back on serve in the 1st to boot). Sure, Roger made some bad decisions in the 2nd, especially when he gave up the second break by serve-volleying every point, but it wouldn't be fair to not point out the quality of Ferrer's groundstrokes and return.
In my observation, Roger looked a little bereft of rest (try saying that 10 times straight), but he fought through that. He lost a lopsided second set and he could have kept dwelling on it, but he didn't, and from the tennis he played in set three, you wouldn't have thought he lost the second picking up just a single game.
In my opinion, that is the difference between Roger the last few weeks (and this whole year) versus last year and even years like 2010 and 2011. If he plays a bad set, or just gets outplayed, he pushes the reset button and doesn't panic. We saw him get pushed around in the second set from the baseline, so he went more aggressive and didn't let himself get pinned in that backhand corner hitting shoulder-high balls. He even ran around a backhand return to smoke a forehand return twice in the game in which he broke to give him the third set cushion. In the second set he was being reactive to Ferrer's play, but in the third he was most certainly being proactive.
Overall, I couldn't be happier for Roger - he definitely deserved to get one of those "bigger" trophies, as he put it. He's played very well throughout this season and hasn't always gotten the breaks, and perhaps the best of all now is that the win springboards him into great form heading into the US Open. And this year more than others, that could be crucial, depending on how Djokovic plays and if Nadal even plays at all. Winning the US Open would be so wonderful, a culmination of the almost year's worth of solid results he's been getting.
Allez, come on, chum jetze ..... Roger.