Up North: DANGER – Inflammable Tennis.
It’s easier to enjoy a match when you already know the result, and that was the case when I sat back with some crackers and cheese for my screencast of Federer v Gulbis this morning. With Davydenko and possibly Nadal lined up for the weekend, Ernie was a good litmus test for Federer. After a nervy start by the youngster, Roger took an early break and raced away merrily with the set.
The second and third sets were tighter affairs as Gulbis settled down to start dominating baseline rallies in stretches. Having the advantage of serving first in the second set, Gulbis broke Roger at 5-4 for the set, but his fortunes did not last for long.
A string of errors late in the third set, followed by a Federer forehand winner led to the crucial break of serve, as Roger served out the match. Which explains why Roger felt like he didn’t have the chance to really earn the victory,
“I’m happy to have come through a tough outing. It was pretty hard toward the end. It looked more like Gulbis gave up rather than me earning the victory,” Federer told a news conference.
But in a way, it was bound to happen with Ernie. Dude spends half his time missing the court by half an mile, and the other half painting the lines like Salvador Dali. At some point, he was going to start to miss, and miss spectacularly. I can’t help but feel that young Latvian might actually perform better if he strategically dials back his game 15% at times.
WTF, you needed to pay?
But Roger had high praises for his opponent.
“I know that Gulbis is the player with the most potential right now,” Federer said. “Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the ranking he deserves. I took him very seriously. I wasn’t surprised by how he played today.”
He won’t have any surprises in his next match either, as he plays his longtime punching-bag Nikolay Davydenko for a spot in final. Given that Kolya famously won their last meeting, I wouldn’t pencil in a win just yet.
Rafa had it easier in the other quarterfinal, as his opponent Darcis retired after getting down 6-1 1-0. Rafa faces Victor Troicki next.
“This wasn’t the way I wanted to reach the semi-finals. I feel sorry for Darcis and wish him a speedy recovery. I hope he plays in the Australian Open (January 18-31). When you know you aren’t well, it’s better to stop,” said Nadal.
That’s a lesson he learnt the hard way.