The last time Roger Federer shot out to a 15-0 start? A dozen years ago. He was 24, went 92-5 and claimed 12 titles, including three majors and four ATP World Tour Masters 1000s. It’s generally considered the finest season of his career, second in the Open Era only to Rod Laver’s miraculous 1969.
Well, Roger circa 2018 is sure beginning to look a whole lot like Roger circa 2006. Australian Open title, No. 1 ranking, unblemished record. Except he’s doing it all at age 36.
Recording his record 60th career win at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on Wednesday evening, Federer clinched a quarterfinal berth via a 7-5, 6-4 victory over No. 100-ranked Jeremy Chardy.
Prior to the match, guest Tennis Channel commentator Will Ferrell proclaimed, “Jeremy Chardy is my favorite player!” But the actor/comedian’s endorsement didn’t do much to help the Frenchman in the first set. Federer would surrender just three points on his serve (23 of 26) in taking the opener.
Chardy, who was appearing in the Round of 16 for the first time in 10 career appearances at the BNP Paribas Open, was broken at 4-all in the second set when Federer swatted a crosscourt backhand winner. The Swiss then served out the match at love in one hour, 22 minutes. Impressively, he won 100 percent of his first serve points (25 of 25), dropping just five on his second.
“I like his play. He hits it big, has a big serve, big forehand,” said Federer, a five-time champion who is into his 12th quarterfinal here. “The wind picked up, so you never know what’s going to happen. But I think we played really good tennis for most of the match.”
His next opponent will be #NextGen standout Hyeon Chung, 21, who advanced with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Pablo Cuevas. They last met in January at the Australian Open, with Chung trailing 6-1, 5-2 when he retired with blisters on his foot.
Chung often gets compared to the South Korean’s idol, Novak Djokovic, but Federer says the parallels aren’t necessarily across the board.
“I think similarities to Novak’s game are particular, which is mostly in his movement, the way he’s able to slide to his forehand and to his backhand with the open stance, which not many guys do or do it as extensively as Chung does,” he said. “That’s the only similarity I see. Service motion, all the other motions are very, very different. It’s a ‘Chung motion,’ if you like. Nobody has that kind of motion, I think, which is good. But I see where the similarities come from with Novak and it’s not a bad one to have, to be honest, because Novak has maybe the best footwork on hard courts we have ever seen.”
Juan Martin Del Potro, a runner-up in Indian Wells in 2013, battled a bad back in his meeting with longtime friend/Davis Cup teammate Leonardo Mayer, but somehow pulled off a 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-3 win to advance.
How did he turn things around?
“I don’t know,” said the 29-year-old with a grin. “But I did.”
“I was surprised by Mayer’s level today,” he continued. “I think I was very smart during the tiebreak. After that I turned the match around and took control of the points.”
The lone American remaining in the men’s draw, No. 18 seed Sam Querrey, booked the quarters with a 6-3, 6-4 decision over 28th seed Feliciano Lopez of Spain. Kevin Anderson prevailed in a rematch of the 2017 US Open quarterfinals, serving his way past Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(6). Next up is Croat Borna Coric.