Isner and Mattek-Sands (above), champions at Hopman Cup in Perth.
Roger had a little trouble with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Doha semi, who seems to come to Australia and always play his best tennis. Tsonga, a big man, really capitalizes on the two month break and is always at his best when he’s fresh. Sure Roger won the first set easily, and had to take the second in a breaker 6-3, 7-6 (3), but Tsonga has the game to challenge Federer, though that challenge was only slight yesterday as Federer continues in fine form. The great man was again barely challenged this morning in Federer/Davydenko XVII. Davydenko, who dusted world #1 Rafael Nadal in straights Friday, got dusted by the great man for the 15th time in 17 encounters, 6-3, 6-4 in little over an hour.
And we’re gonna take a sec to toot our own horn here, because in last month’s piece about Roger and Venus, we mentioned the fact that a healthy Davydenko is a bad matchup for Rafa, and well, what we saw in our crystal ball came to pass some 6 or 7 days later. But this is primarily about Roger, of course. The great man takes his 67th ATP tournament victory in his 95th finals appearance. Those numbers are a testament to Roger’s brilliance and consistency over time. Federer has been serving lights out on the Plexicushion, only broken once so far in 42 service games leading up to the final. Today Federer won a staggering 40/51 points on serve, and faced no break points.
This is not to say that Davydenko did not play well. He played to a very high level, but could never mount an offensive against Rog, who we will repeat, appears in his finest form since 2006. With more results in and more time to analyze, it would appear that Paul Annacone has focused on Roger’s serve, and impressed upon him the absolute necessity in holding serve. We haven’t seen Federer throw in more than 2-3 bad service games since October, and he dominated Nadal on the strength of his serve, and agressive first strike tennis at the YEC in London to end the year.
Next stop for Fed is likely the Kooyong Classic, a well run Melbourne exo where Roger and a few other big names usually get 2 or 3 matches in. Remember a few years back that Federer lost to Roddick at Kooyong, and then demolished him in the AO semi-final, as the great man obviously keeps a few tricks in the bag until he hits Rod Laver. Andy Murray is also expected to show up at Kooyong, and it could be interesting to see Roger playing coy with the other Andy there. Speaking of Murray, the lad completely out-classed Giant John Isner in the men’s portion of the final B tie at Hopman. But thankfully, Bethanie Mattek-Sands had already clinched the Americans spot in the final with a trouncing of teen Laura Robson. As for Isner, he only managed 2 paltry aces versus Murray, who set the tone in the match’s first game with an easy break of Isner’s serve. The Isner serve, gigantic in terms of MPH, was no problem for the quick reflexes of Murray, who dialed in to Isner’s serve very easily, and on some returns, took the ball close to 2 meters inside the baseline and struck 1st ball return winners. We aren’t quick to praise Murray who we despise for his passive style, but as Fred Stolle remarked, Murray delivered quite a wakeup call to Isner, and illustrated vividly the difference between world’s #4 and 19. If Isner doesn’t play aggressive first strike tennis on the Plexicushion, which is a hard surface to hit through on, he has zero chance. Murray moved the ball around, and the lumbering Isner was the one on the defensive. Murray tired Isner out with side to side rallies, and executed several almost perfect drop shots that left Isner frozen in time.
In the end, no cause for alarm for the Americans, who faced Belgium unexpectedly in the final, because the group A leaders, Serbia, had to drop out of contention due to an aggravated stomach muscle suffered by Ana Ivanovic. There are no injury replacements permitted in the Hopman Cup. Though Henin gave quite a lesson to Mattek-Sands in the first match of the tie, clinically dispatching her, Isner shook off the loss to Murray quite nicely in defeating Belgian youngster Ruben Bemelmans. As is often so fascinating with Hopman Cup, the tie came down to the mixed portion, where you have Giant John Isner serving to one of the greats, Justine Henin, giving away a foot and a half to the American. Unlike Serena, who has carried the US to several Hopman Cup titles, the best female could not elevate her squad to victory this morning. Isner and Mattek-Sands defeated the Belgian team, and we are very hopeful that they will remain paired and take a run at the mixed title in Melbourne, where the AO begins in 8 days.
In Brisbane this morning, Andy Roddick overcame a loose second set and a very powerful opponent with a big serve, South African 24 year old Kevin Anderson, who played his college ball at the University of Illinois in Champagne. We have seen the poor returning Roddick have big difficulty with big servers, notably John Isner in the round of 16 at the USO, and of course Roger Federer. Anderson served big, and kept Roddick off balance with his pace, which prevented Roddick from taking control at the net. In the 3rd set, Roddick made an important adjustment, following slice backhands in, which travel slowly and give him the time to set his feet at net. Good to see from Roddick, who doesn’t always have a strong plan B. Roddick took out Anderson in 3 sets, and played the majority of the big points better than his opponent. Roddick looks to be in great physical condition, and may have dropped a few pounds. As the match wore on, he seemed like the guy better able to be at war, while fatigue seemed to creep in for the young Anderson. Dandy Andy will take on Robin Soderling in the final tomorrow (Soderling easily straighted Radek Stepanek earlier), and we love Soderling’s game over the past few years, and figure he will be favored going in. We’ll pull for Roddick, but we are figuring on Soderling having too much pace and being too aggressive for the safer Roddick to stay with.
By the way, our woman Brooklyn Decker was looking very casual next to Roddick’s ace coach, Larry Stefanki, in the player’s box. We also well await the Decker/Jenni Mostrom matchup tomorrow morning.
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