In a match that was emblematic in many ways, Roger Federer and Grigor Dimitrov offered a sort of window into the future through a prism from the past. If Federer walked out on to centre court, wondering if someone were just holding up a mirror to the other side he would not be far off the mark. The Bulgarian is modeled on his idol and the smooth flow of his limbs so resemble the ways of the man he worships.
In the event, Federer reminded Dimitrov that he might still have ways to go before threatening the top men with a comprehensive 6-3, 7-6(2) victory to reach the semi-finals at the Swiss Indoors Basel for the tenth time. Dimitrov was on a seven match hot streak that saw him claim the maiden ATP World Tour title of his career, when he won the Stockholm Open last week.
Dimitrov got off to a thundering start – striking an ace and a thumping smash winner to hold serve to the get the match off the blocks. Federer dug himself into a hole at 0-30 in the second game and Dimitrov made the most of the opportunity to earn three break points with a brilliant cross court backhand return winner.
Much to the joy of his fans inside the indoor court at St. Jakobshalle, the Swiss veteran saved all three of them to claw back to deuce. But the much vaunted forehand of the serial champion was playing truant and Federer was forced to save two more break points before finally holding serve with an audacious forehand down the line winner.
A double fault from Federer in the fourth game served to embolden Dimitrov and the Swiss helped his opponent by gifting an unnecessary forehand error to slip to 15-30. Yet again, Federer had to scramble hard to wiggle out of trouble and keep it even at 2-2. But Federer was struggling for accuracy off the ground and with four errors in the fifth game, Dimtrov only had to get the serve in play to take a 3-2 lead.
At 30-30 in the seventh game, Federer sensed an opportunity, eagerly urged by his army of fans on centre court. Dimitrov invited the Swiss into the kitchen when he flailed a forehand too deep. The world No. 7 accepted with glee to lord over the net before killing a high ball to clinch the first break of the match.
Federer consolidated easily in the eighth game to inch within a game of the first set. Dimitrov wasted a game point in the next game, to allow Federer to deuce in the next game. Federer hastened to take the set to closure with a powerful forehand winner to earn set point. The Bulgarian made it immediately easy for the Swiss by crashing a forehand into the net to close out the 35 minute first set.
A telling difference between the two men was the conversion rate on the first serve – Federer won 93% of his first serve points, where Dimitrov could only manage to score off 67%. Federer took both his break point opportunities, whilst “baby Fed” failed to translate any of the five that came knocking at his doorstep.
Perhaps, it was a lapse of concentration for the ageing Swiss maestro. He dumped a straightforward backhand in the net to offer the first break point of the second set in the third game. Yet again, he was let off by Dimitrov but a bad bounce hurt Federer who surrendered a seventh opportunity to the 8th seeded Dimitrov. This time the Bulgarian did not need to lift a racket, as Federer threw in a double fault to surrender the break.
Dimitrov was serving to consolidate his break when Federer gave a glimpse of his genius from a position of defense at the back of the court. With his opponent all over a short ball at the net, Federer defended with spirit before conjuring a delectable lob over his stranded opponent. But Dimitrov proved equal to the test, winning the next two points to take a 3-1 lead.
In the sixth game of the second set, Dimitrov offered the scent of hope to Federer when he threw in a double fault at 30-15. But Dimitrov survived the moment to retain a two game advantage with the break of serve at 4-2. Serving to stay in the set at 5-3, Federer slipped to 0-30. Dimitrov pulled out a stunning return winner to earn three set points to force the decider.
But Federer, in the far court, showed plenty of gumption to work his way back to deuce. A forehand volley winner gave him his fifth straight point to force Dimitrov to serve for the set. The 8th seed displayed plenty of nerves as he played a shoddy service game to fall to 0-30. A double fault from Dimitrov gave two break points to the Swiss. The tentative Bulgarian saved the first, but muffed an easy overhead to squander the advantage.
Federer held to 6-5 and moments later the noose tightened when Dimitrov lost the first two points off his own serve to drop to 0-30 in the twelfth game. A couple of unforced errors from the Swiss helped Dimitrov earn game point and a service winner ensured that the intensely contested second set would be decided through a tie-breaker.
A service winner from Federer got the breaker off the ground and a forehand error from Dimitrov gave the Swiss his first mini-break. Federer rode the momentum to perfection, whipping the ball with his powerful forehand to take command at 4-1. Dimitrov compounded his problems when he sank a simple forehand in the net as he raced to the net, leaving Federer two points away from a place in the last four.
Dimitrov, stretched on the backhand side, could only retrieve the ball into the net to offer four match points to the five time Basel champion. Federer needed just one, finishing the match in style with a service winner down the middle to pave his path into the semi-finals of the tournament. It was a highly anticipated match, but with Dimitrov serving at less than 50% it was always going to prove tough to tame Federer.
Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro celebratres after beating France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu in their quarter-final tennis match at the Swiss Indoors ATP tournament in Basel.
In earlier matches, Juan Martin Del Potro handed a 6-4, 6-4 thumping to qualifier Paul-Henri Mathieu to ease the Frenchman out of the tournament. The defending champion was in commanding form, losing just six points in the 79 minute contest. The Argentine will face Edouard Roger-Vasselin in the semi-finals. The 65th ranked Frenchman reached his third ATP World Tour semi-final of the season, after working his way past Daniel Brands 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
Federer will contest against yet another young player with a bright future on the tour for a place in the finals on Sunday. Vasek Pospisil, the rising Canadian, defeated Ivan Dodig 7-6(11), 6-4 to book his place in the semifinals. Federer’s march into the semifinals inches the Swiss closer to the year end championships in London. Federer could seal his place at the ATP World Tour finals is he wins the final on Sunday.