Roger Federer had won his 1st two matches against Borna Coric and then lost the next two, both on hard courts. He had played Stefanos Tsitsipas just once, on hard courts at the 2019 Australian Open and had lost to the young Greek. As a 99 time ATP Champion, aiming for his 100th, he was required to go past these two young stars, and he did so in style.
Federer outclassed Coric 6-2, 6-2 to set up an awaited final against Tsitsipas. The King broke early, then held serve comfortably to serve out the first set 6-4. The second was more close and both players were locked at 4-4 before Roger did what he has done so many times in his amazing career, seizing the opportunity at the slightest faltering shown by the opponent. he broke Tsitsipas and then served out the match to lift his 100th title.
Roger becomes only the second tennis player to achieve 100 tournament wins with only Jimmy Connors ahead at 109. His 1st tournament win was at Milan in 2001 against unheralded Frenchman Julian Boutter for whom this was one of two finals reached and who reached a highest ranking of world number 44. The same month, he won all three matches he played in his country’s 3-2 Davis Cup win versus the strong USA team. In 2001 he also defeated Pete Sampras at Wimbledon and this signified the end of an era and beginning of one.
Federer’s 100th win comes against Tsitsipas is significant since just the way Federer had defeated Sampras, he had faced defeat against the Greek, who most tennis pundits are predicting will be a multi-Grand Slam winner. Stefanos gave Federer a huge compliment by saying that Federer’s aggressiveness gave him less time to prepare. To quote the youngster, “He was very aggressive, didn’t give me any time today. I was expecting it, for him to be a little more aggressive. He just seemed like he was having control over everything he was doing, taking the ball super early, on the rise, giving me no time to prepare. It was a very fast-tempo game. It felt like he was controlling everything on his own terms. He was just very, very aggressive.”
The Dubai triumph means that since 2001 when he had won his 1st ATP title, this is now the 18th year in which he has one or more titles, which is a remarkable feat of endurance, consistency and longevity. Dubai, of course, is one of his favourite tournaments and he has won it as many as 8 times, the same number of times as at Wimbledon and it is only at Basel and Hale that he has won more ( 9 titles).
Reflecting on his journey, Federer said “I’m so happy I’m still playing, It’s been a long, wonderful journey and it all started as a junior world champion. It’s been great. I wouldn’t do it any differently. I’ve loved every minute.” Well Roger, so have your fans.
What next for Federer. He started Dubai at Number 7 in the world and it certainly was strange to see Nishikori as the top seed and Roger seeded below him. 500 points will now see him back in the top 5, that too at Number 4. This will make him feel more comfortable as he certainly would not like to meet his great rivals Rafa and Novak as early as quarter-finals or earlier. Looking ahead, he will hardly be defending any points ( only 500 at Indian Wells) and as he has stated his intention of playing the clay court season, his ranking is certainly going to remain the same and he may possibly improve to 3 as well.
For champions such as Federer and Rafa however, rankings are not important, tournament wins are. Can Federer add to his 100? More importantly, can he add to his 20 Grand Slam titles? Well, he is playing good tennis. The serve is working and so are both the forehands and backhands. Fitness does not seem to be an issue, helped of course by his relaxed, easy way of playing. After all, none other than Rafa had said: “Roger was born to play tennis”.
Congrats Roger for your 100th win. We are reasonably certain its 100 and counting.
The blogger, Ritesh Misra, is an IRS Officer currently based in Mumbai. He tweets @riteshmisra. His hobbies are sports, films, and music.
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