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Delbonis shocks Roger Federer, Fognini trumps Almagro

Anand Datla
FEATURED COLUMNIST
1.66K   //    20 Jul 2013, 20:17 IST
bet-at-home Open 2013 - Semi Finals

Federico Delbonis of Argentina (L) and Roger Federer of Switzerland shake hands after their Semi Final match during the International German Open at Rothenbaum

The 114th ranked Federico Delbonis spends much of his time around the Challenger events. But on Saturday, he appeared in Roger Federer’s nightmare and tormented the Swiss to the end of his wits.

The world No.5 succumbed to the ferocious power of the left hander’s forehand, as the Argentine shocked both himself and Federer in a stunning upset. Delbonis needed an hour and 53 minutes to score a sensational 7-6(7), 7-6(4) victory to reach the first ATP final of his nascent career.

Delbonis will take on Fabio Fognini for the title on Sunday.

Federer has taken time this week to make an impression on his opponents. Against Delbonis though, the Swiss struck a rather crisp inside out forehand to pass the Argentine at the net and earn an early break at 2-1. The Argentine had come through the qualifiers and he showed why, by responding with the urgency of a man who understood the danger.

Delbonis struck a forehand up the line to gain break point in the fourth game. Federer made it easy for his opponent by sinking a backhand in the net to surrender the break. As the set progressed, Delbonis held his ground, even making Federer work hard to hold his own service games.

With the tie-break looming, Federer struck a thundering backhand cross court pass to hold at love and draw even at 5-5. Any hopes of Federer forcing the issue were laid to rest, with the Argentine responding with a love hold to force the Swiss to serve to stay in the set.

With nothing to lose, Delbonis swung at will to earn a set point. Federer drew out a couple of big serves to stave off the Argentine. An uncharacteristic double fault from the Swiss offered a second opportunity to Delbonis. Eventually, it was interesting to see Federer relieved just to force the breaker.

Federer gained the first mini-break when Delbonis failed to clear the net on the fifth point. The Swiss squandered the advantage quickly when he sailed long after the change of ends. Delbonis held both his serves to take a 5-4 lead. An engaging rally ended when Delbonis struck wide to offer Federer a set point.

It evaporated in the heat of Hamburg, as the Swiss failed to return a powerful serve to the body. Serving to stay in the set at 6-7, Federer struck with power to remain tied in the breaker. But Federer rushed to the net and failed to deal with the left hander’s power to offer another set point.

Delbonis showed remarkable composure to control the next rally behind a juicy serve to smash his way to the first set. At this stage, Federer was managing to put in less than 60% of his first serves into play and his left handed opponent was making the most of his second serves to constantly keep the Swiss under pressure.

Federer courted trouble at the start of the second set. He laid an inside out forehand in the net to offer two break points to Delbonis. Federer fought back to deuce but Delbonis made the most of a short ball to earn another opportunity. The Swiss needed a well-timed drop shot to stave the break and some vintage forehands to eventually earn the hold.

Playing with a sense of urgency, Federer finally showed glimpses of his old self in the third game. In a spot of bother again, the Swiss struck a couple of brilliant forehand winners to hold serve from deuce and stay up at 2-1. At the other end, Delbonis raced through his service game at love to quickly bring the focus back on Federer.

It took another mighty effort from Federer just to hold serve in the seventh game and stay afloat at 4-3. Federer enjoyed a rare break point in the next game when Delbonis flailed a backhand long, but Federer failed to pass his opponent at the net on the next point. With the set staying on serve, it fell upon Delbonis to serve to stay in the set at 4-5. The 22 year old proved up to the task not once but twice as he pushed the set into another tie-breaker.

In the tight breaker, Federer blinked first when he sailed a forehand wide to leave the breaker on the Argentine’s racket. Delbonis was beside himself in joy when Federer sent another forehand into the net to end the match.

Earlier in the day, Fabio Fognini won over Nicolas Almagro despite stiff resistance from the Spaniard to win his ninth match on the trot. On Sunday, the Italian will look to win his second title in two weeks when he takes on Delbonis tomorrow.

Fognini hadn’t met Almagro since Bucharest in 2009, but played with the assurance of a man at the top of his game to clinch his second victory in five matches against the Spaniard. The 25 year old needed an hour and 49 minutes to edge Almagro 6-4, 7-6(1) to reach his fourth ATP World Tour final. In a match that consisted of 25 break points in just two sets, Almagro did himself no favours throwing in seven double faults.

Fognini got stuck into it very quickly, breaking Almagro at the end of an entertaining 18 point first game which included 5 break points for the Italian. Serving to stay in the match, Almagro was forced to fight tooth and nail to stave off set points to stay in the set. The Italian wrapped up the set on his serve.

Almagro lost his serve again in the first game of the second set, but clawed back this time to gain a break in the fourth game to get the set back on serve at 2-2. As Almagro sought to push for the decider, Fognini was forced to save a set point in the tenth game. Eventually though, the set slipped into a breaker and Almagro fizzled out to allow Fognini home with plenty to spare.

Back to Federer – considering how the Swiss has laboured this week, it wasn’t entirely unexpected. But it was still shocking to see the great man slump to a straight set defeat at the hands of an unheralded opponent. Federer is clearly struggling to find the consistency he needs to hang with the power and pace of a generation that is beginning to assault with ever more confidence.

The castle is under seize and unless Federer finds a way quickly, he could suffer the most forgettable season of his career since the beginning of his ride to greatness.

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Anand Datla
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Sport and character are the cornerstone of life. A middle aged writer with a child like love and passion for sport and its bottomless treasure of tales.
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