Having got past the experienced Philipp Kohlschreiber in the first round of 2019 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, top seed Roger Federer faces another veteran, Fernando Verdasco, in the second round.
Like Kohlschreiber, Verdasco too would be looking for his first win over the Swiss Maestro in seven meetings. Of the six matches they have played so far, Verdasco has managed to take only one set off Federer, way back in their round robin encounter at the 2009 ATP World Tour Finals in London. Interestingly, their last match was at the same venue in the same round in 2015.
Verdasco has always been a dangerous player and has mostly hovered around the top 20 and 30-mark in world rankings, without ever really threatening to reach the summit. He has proved to be a dangerous opponent for even the tennis superstars of this generation.
Against Novak Djokovic, he has won four matches and three matches against Rafael Nadal. He would desperately want to get a victory over the only remaining member of the big three before his career winds up. With an ageing Federer on the other side of the court, he may have his best chance yet.
But to do that, Verdasco will have to improve on his inconsistent performance of the first round. He was way too inconsistent and at times, unnecessarily aggressive in his three-set win over Thomas Fabbiano. His thirteen aces and five double faults certainly point at the latter.
His opponent in the round of sixteen, the great Roger Federer, fared little better in his first round match as well. He began his match against Kohlschreiber quite well by breaking the German in the first game.
But after that, he could never come anywhere close to his best until the beginning of the third set. His performance in the second set was especially a cause of concern, where he let himself be distracted not just by a fired-up opponent, but also the windy conditions that deterred him from achieving his pin-point accuracy.
He will face a similar tricky opponent and possibly, similarly windy conditions. It is expected that he would have learnt his lessons from the first match and would put up a much better show, this time around.
Prediction: Roger Federer to win in straight sets