|Verve and Volley – Dubai is now second only to SW19 in
Federer’s trophy count with six titles in all.
Excuse the crass word-play in the title, an itch I had to scratch!
Also excuse the lateness of this and the February results round-up, all work and no play makes Al an unorganised, deadline shunning boy.
I say no play but my weekend certainly had its perks; namely an annual subscription to the brilliant TennisTV, giving me access to most of the ATP and WTA tournies, big and small.
The last fortnight has seen the headlines well and truly grabbed by the Dubai Duty-Free Championships (catchy name…) where two golden oldies triumphed.
First, Venus Williams slew all before her with performances which reminded us just how much the tour has missed those groundies, passion and the American’s smile. If nothing else, the veteran’s performances that week – including not dropping a set no less- will act as the ideal swansong.
The same can be said of the victor of the ATP event last week. He may still be capable of a grand slam semi-final, but Roger Federer is very much in the twilight of his career.
The facts, figures, and simple mathematics of ageing prove as much.
Whilst this is difficult to stomach for anyone who enjoys tennis as an art form, we should be cheered that with the Swiss now having had to embrace the Serve and Volley game (although not as readily as expected on the evidence in Dubai) we are in for some sparkling, stirring stuff from this Edberg-drilled Swiss.
His defeat of Novak in the semi’s last week was pure popcorn stuff, the Serb suddenly found himself up against a Federer with 2006-7 levels of energy and, most tellingly; confidence.
A tough win over the evergreen Stepanek the previous round, and a pretty encouraging year so far have all contributed to the one aspect sorely missing from Federer’s 2013.
Roger, much like against Nadal in Australia had been pensive in his net-play and chose to cautiously trade baseline blows. Unsurprisingly this wasn’t working against a top tenner, let alone one of the Big Three (four?).
Eventually Federer played more aggressively and haunted the net, the confidence coursed through the Swiss and subsequently the effortless shot-making returned.
Djokovic was stunned and noticeably lost his own belief and concentration in that final set wilt.
Tomasz Berdych awaited the victor in the final, the Czech has been one of THE form-players of 2014 (who knows what might have been in that Melbourne match with Wawrnka).
But it was deja-vu come the crunch, Berdych was in fact, in an even stronger position – a set and a break up – before succombing to the Swiss’ aura, unpredictability and sheer talent.
It was a joy to watch, and even if he wins nothing else all year due to his rivals adapting to this serve and volley tactic we should savour the artist orchestrating tennis in its most attractive of play-styles.
Image – BBC Sport/Reuters