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Roger Federer can take many positives from his hard-fought win against Daniil Medvedev

249   //    10 Oct 2018, 21:34 IST

A hard-fought win against Medvedev in his opening match is a perfect way to get Federer battle-ready for tough challenges in the latter stages of the tournament
A hard-fought win against Medvedev in his opening match is a perfect way to get Federer battle-ready for tough challenges in the latter stages of the tournament

Roger Federer had to bring all his experience into play to scrap through his opening match against Daniil Medvedev at the Shanghai Masters. Though it will be easy to downgrade Federer’s chances of a title defence on the evidence of a match where he looked far from his best, I would like to argue the opposite. I think a match like this could actually be a blessing in disguise for the defending champion. Here is why.

Firstly, the opponent: The player on the other side of the court is in terrific form and having a break out year in which he has won all his three ATP tour titles in a nascent career. The young Russian is coming off a title run in Tokyo, and has defeated many a fancied player in the recent past.

Even though on paper, Daniil may have come across as the underdog in this encounter, the fact is he is one of the most improved players in the tour and right now the quality of his tennis certainly is of the standard that belongs in the ATP top 10. So, a win against a top in-form player, regardless of the manner in which it’s done, should be no reason to not celebrate the same, and find positives from.

Secondly, the manner of the victory: Contrary to what many feel, it can be argued that a hard-fought, back-to-the-wall, even at times scrappy match is EXACTLY what the doctor ordered. All too often this year, Feeder has uncharacteristically lost close encounters, at times from winning positions. This time, he did not give up, kept fighting till the end, kept finding his first serves when needed, played a wee bit better on crucial points, and ended on the right side of the result.

His net play, especially, was superb. This, no doubt augurs well for his confidence. He can draw from his experience in this match if he faces a similar situation later in the tournament.

Thirdly, a bit of luck: A player, even one as supremely talented as Roger Federer, could do with a bit of luck when not feeling that great on the court. There were moments in this match where, like most such close encounters, the winner’s shots just about landed on the line and the opponent’s just out.

More importantly, lady luck seems to be smiling on the aging Federer, as the draw seems to have opened up a bit for him. Raonic, whom he was scheduled to meet in the next round, has exited after his loss to Mackenzie McDonald and in place of the hard-hitting Canadian, Roger will now meet Roberto Bautista Agut, who is going through a lean patch of his own, and should not pose too much of a problem to the maestro.

Roger may still have to beat Nishikori, del Potro and Djokovic if he is to defend his title. But as today’s match has amply demonstrated, he just needs to take it one match at a time, and find a way to win, the manner of which should not be a matter of worry for him or his legions of fans worldwide. Even at his scrappiest, Roger’s tennis is still a thing of beauty!