You might think that after two decades of vanquishing opponents, circumvolving between English and Swiss-German and French with inquisitive journos, and amassing both frequent-flyer miles and trophies, Roger Federer might be tiring of the grind. But at the age of 36, having reclaimed the No 1 ranking some 14 years after his debut atop the ATP charts, he appears to be enjoying his chosen profession as much as ever.
We can only marvel, as commentator James Blake noted this week, at how in this era of harder/better/faster/stronger athletes Federer has managed to “stay healthy, stay relevant, stay on top.”
“I look at Federer and I see that he’s so hungry just to play the game of tennis because it’s a thing of beauty,” reflected Hall of Famer Chris Evert prior to the Australian Open, where Federer would collect his record 20th Grand Slam title. “He just loves everything connected with tennis, the game itself, he loves the traveling, he loves everything that goes along with it. I think that has kept him in the game longer. You always hear players complain, ‘I want to be in one place, or I’m burned out.’ He doesn’t burn himself out mentally because he knows how to compartmentalize and live a normal life with his family. There’s nothing burned out about Roger Federer.”
On Monday, Federer improved to 65-5 since returning from a left knee injury in 2017, taking another step toward a record sixth BNP Paribas Open title with a 6-2, 6-1 third-round win over No. 25 seed Filip Krajinovic.
Federer’s son Lenny may have been sporting the Superman cap in a luxury box alongside mom Mirka, but it was his dad who was pulling off the superhuman feats on the Stadium 1 court below.
There were four breaks of serve in the somewhat shaky opening set. But with a triple set point in his favor with Krajinovic serving at 2-5, 0-40, Federer smacked a running forehand pass to seal the stanza. He would surge ahead 3-0 in the second and never look back, closing out the match in a mere 58 minutes.
“I thought I was much more calm today in the match,” said Federer, who ousted Federico Delbonis in a rain-delayed, two-day match in the second round. “It was more straightforward with a right-hander, someone who plays more on the flatter side. I was playing aggressive and feeling like he was not loving my slice, and then also mixing in dropshots eventually. I think I was able to mix up my game nicely, make it difficult for him.”
Krajinovic had reached the final of his last ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event, in Paris at the end of 2017, but the Serb was no match for Federer, who struck six aces and made good on five of eight break-point opportunities. Federer next faces Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, a 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 winner over countryman Adrian Mannarino. The Swiss leads the FedEx ATP Head2Head history, 3-1.