The general consensus about the centre court at the Rogers Cup in Montreal is that it’s slow. Very slow. Slower than either Cincinnati next week or the US Open.
It might partially explain that while Roger Federer has won Cincinnati seven times, he has won the Rogers Cup only twice – and never in Montreal. He hasn’t even played in Montreal since 2011.
But on Thursday, conditions were fast.
Perhaps that’s one reason why the newly 36-year-old struggled to find his timing against the dogged David Ferrer Thursday. he finally came through with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory that puts him into the quarterfinals against another Spaniard, Roberto Bautista Agut.
He might not have noticed the faster conditions during his first match against Peter Polansky, because the opposition wasn’t as fierce and he wasn’t tested.
“He was tough as nails today, I’m happy I got back into the match, I needed a bit of help from David because it wasn’t my best performance,” Federer said on court after the match. “It’s fast conditions today, and it’s tough to control the ball, I must say. And I’m not quite used to the balls yet.
“The hard-court season has been a bit of a struggle for me, in practice as well. This is going to give me some rhythm, and I’m very happy about it.”
Perfect conditions, an imperfect match
Federer said the speed of the court was a surprise not because he expected something else, because he had not been in Montreal for awhile. It was more a matter of just adjusting to the hard courts in general.
But he definitely was out of sorts. You won’t often see him fire a ball into the crowd in annoyance. Perhaps that’s why the chair umpire didn’t dock him a code violation; he was too surprised to open his mouth. Federer followed the loss of that point with a double-fault to hand Ferrer back the break the Swiss star had just earned, early in the second set.
Federer found the solutions. Being a career 16-0 against Ferrer, who is just eight months younger, had to help.
“It was strange. Conditions are actually playing fast. That should help my serve. There was no wind. So it was actually perfect conditions to actually play a good and clean match. That’s not the way it is,” Federer said later in his press conference. “From the baseline, I didn’t have enough rhythm. The court is fast here. Of course, because of the surface, that it’s fast, you can’t just decide to put the ball in because physically David is very strong. You can’t do that. So you have to go into the battle. You have to accept you’re going to make mistakes. But you have to keep moving forward.
“I tried with my intensity and focus to change the match, and this is what I was able to do. I was able also to change the angles, and that helped me win the match,” he added.
No wife, no kids, no problem
Federer is flying solo in Montreal; for the first time in a long time, his wife and four children are not on hand. Perhaps that’s why he was able to sneak out to the Coldplay concert earlier this week.
It might also be why he has allowed himself to look a little scruffy. No need to worry about the kids complaining about daddy’s whiskers hurting when he cuddles them.
The temporary bachelor thought it would be nice and quiet. It hasn’t turned out that way.
“Of course, I miss ’em, number one. That’s what I feel the most. Secondly, I know I’ll see them very soon, so I’m fine there. It’s not, like, the first week of my life where I’m by myself. I’m used to it, as well. But, you know, I still somehow am very busy. Trying to sleep as much as I can, preparing,” he said.
“Now that I’m playing every day, you know, there’s not that much time. Came here this morning at 11:00 and I’m leaving late. Then I got treatment, press, everything. So it’s full days, you know. I’ll try to relax tonight. But, yeah, I thought it was going to be more quiet this week, but it wasn’t, so…”
Federer also has a perfect record against Bautista-Agut (6-0), whom he considers to pose a challenge similar to the one Ferrer offers. Their last tussle was tight, though; Federer defeated Bautista-Agut in two tiebreakers in the third round of the Miami event in late March.