The last time he’d played on this court, Roger Federer’s eyes glistened with tears of joy, a skyful of green, gold and purple confetti fluttering overhead.
It was another indelible moment in what the Swiss would call his “fairytale of a comeback.” After six months away from the only livelihood he had ever known, knee surgery having confined him to more pedestrian pursuits, Federer had followed his epic five-set Australian Open triumph over Rafa Nadal with a fifth BNP Paribas Open title, defeating countryman Stan Wawrinka, 6-4, 7-5.
He retook that same Stadium 1 court on Saturday night on the heels of yet another Aussie Open triumph, his industry-best 20th major, only this time having reclaimed the No. 1 ranking. There were no tears this time around, only scattered raindrops. Mother Nature would cooperate long enough for the 36-year-old to take the first set against 36th-ranked Federico Delbonis, but the weather kicked in midway through the second and the remainder of the match was pushed to Sunday. The interruption only delayed what seemed an inevitable outcome, as Federer took his first step toward a record sixth title in the desert via 6-3, 7-6(6) win over the lanky Argentine.
Federer, who improved to a spotless 13-0 on the year, was quick to assert himself against the left-handed Argentine on Saturday night, breaking Delbonis in the fourth game of the opening set. Serving at 5-3, 15-40, he saved a pair of break points to close out the stanza in a speedy 37 minutes. Tennis Channel commentator Jim Courier noted Federer’s “hurry-up offense.”
The rain-interrupted match reconvened at 2-all on a sun-splashed Sunday, and remained on serve through the telltale tiebreak. Delbonis had a set point on his racquet in the breaker at 6-5 thanks to a Federer double fault, but the Swiss would turn things around, setting up a third-round contest with 27th seed Filip Krajinovic of Serbia.
Federer, the all-time leader in match wins in Indian Wells with 58, totaled 27 winners to 47 unforced errors in the two-day contest.