Drive: Roger Federer felt he struggled, but still managed to easily dismiss Grigor Dimitrov. Photo: Eddie Jim Focussed: Dimitrov executes a volley. Photo: Eddie Jim
Downpour: rain-soaked spectators wait for the Rod Laver roof to close. Photo: Eddie Jim
Here is an absurd thing. Roger Federer won his 300th grand slam match. Only Martina Navratilova compares – she won 306.
It is absurd for two reasons: one it illustrates in numbers his barely credible career; two, numbers barely credibly illustrate Federer’s career.
The numbers doesn’t speak of Federer’s backhand. Or his serve, or his … well you know what I mean. Besides the more compelling stat at the moment, and the one that continues to in part drive Federer, is this: he has won 17 grand slams but none in four years. But the real relevance of the 300th win is that it edges him closer – into the quarter finals now against Belgian David Goffin – to claim his 18th here.
But for a slump in the second set Federer was authoritative in accounting for the similarly elegant, but deferential, Gregor Dimitrov in four sets 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.
After a routine first set Dimitrov broke Federer early in the second set and the momentum surprisingly swung. Federer struggled to penetrate on Dimitrov’s serve and was blending aces with uncharacteristically bladed ground shots on his own serve.
“It was a difficult situation to be in. I thought I was struggling a little bit, maybe I was tired. I didn’t feel right,” Federer said.
The Bulgarian had established a toe hold of confidence and it grew palpably. He had only ever taken one set from Federer in the four previous meetings between them, but now he was emboldened and held on to win the set.
Chastened, Federer stalked out for the third set and immediately broke Dimitrov’s serve. He bullied his way back into control winning the set set 6-1. Then fourth set was not as rapid, but the outcome the same.
Dimitrov is dubbed Mini-Fed – a moniker Dimitrov bridles against – because of the similarity in their games. Federer himself acknowledges the closeness of the styles and found himself over-thinking how to deal with it.
“It’s a little odd,” to play someone with the same style of game.
“I feel he picks up the ball on the back hand and the forehand side like me … (so) I start to play like I would not want it.” Then he checked himself and reconcentrated on his own game.
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