I couldn’t be more happy. It’s an absolute, huge start to the year for me. Last year I didn’t win any titles. I don’t think I was in any finals except maybe Brisbane last year. The change is dramatic, and it feels great. Roger Federer
The ageing tennis player returns with a vengeance
By Roger Childs
The Swiss maestro came into the 2017 season after a layoff of six months recovering from a knee injury, sustained while running a bath for his twins. He was beaten in the third round in his comeback tournament in Perth, and was seeded 17th in the Australian Open in late January. However, the 35 year old was not expected to make the quarter finals.
He confounded the critics by winning his 18th grand slam in Melbourne. Then, over this last week, he made the final at Indian Wells in southern California without dropping a set. On the way he thrashed old rival Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-3.
But could he beat his friend, fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka in the final?
A wonderful tennis venue
The Indian Wells Tennis Garden is the second largest venue for the sport in the world.
Located in the desert near Palm Springs, it is now owned by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, well know to New Zealanders as the owner of the America’s Cup yacht that bears the company name.
The annual March Indian Wells tournament attracts all the top tennis players and is the largest outside the four grand slams.
A quality men’s final
Stan Wawrinka was seeded 3 and Roger Federer 9. None of the other top ten seeds made the semi finals, and the two Swiss won these in straight sets.
In the first set of the final, games went with service to 5-4. Wawrinka was up 30-15 in the tenth game, but unforced errors and Federer’s greater accuracy saw the latter take the set.
Both players were playing powerfully, but Federer had made fewer mistakes and his more varied game suggested that he might well win in two sets. However, his compatriot broke Federer’s service in the first game of the second set, and ahead 2-0 only had to keep winning his serve to take the match into a third and deciding set.
But Federer broke back and at 5-5 the set hung in the balance. The 18 times grand slam champion was in great form and his volleying and backhand winners often had the crowd gasping. There were some great rallies and Wawrinka contributed with many fine shots and a number of cross-court winners.
However, he made more unforced errors, and occasionally made the mistake of smashing and volleying straight back to Federer who eagerly dispatched “the gifts” for winners. In the end Federer was just too good and took the match 6-4, 7-5.
It was his fifth Indian Wells title, equalling Novak Djokovic’s record.
The Swiss maestro is definitely back, defying his age and the critics. By winning this title, he becomes the oldest men’s player to win a top ATP tournament.