Anyway, I most fortunately didn't have to wait too long past 12 midnight for Roger's match. Murray and Nadal both won their matches under one hour, which meant Roger took the court way, way earlier than I expected. It started at around 12.10 a.m. and he wrapped it up before 1 a.m.
I didn't manage to watch the Federer matches I have on DVD over the holidays due to some reason or other, and when I'm not watching Roger play tennis, I forget, a little, what a visual treat it is when he turns it on the way he does. He definitely turned it on against Starace - absolutely exquisite tennis. No sleepwalking through first-round matches the way he did for the indoor hard court season last year. More importantly, he played with aggression and precision, making shots that he sometimes missed last year, setting up easy winners with comfortable rallies, and hitting decisive volley winners after winners. And the variety of his shots was also an absolute joy to watch: a drop shot disguised as forehand out of nowhere, a drop shot return that threw poor Starace completely off-balance, and absolutely fantastic return-of-serve winners. Not to mention those two backhand down-the-line winners that even had me by surprise.
9 unforced errors, 26 winners, 5 aces. He dropped six points on serve max, if I counted correctly. 9 UFEs and 26 winners sounds like the old Roger Federer to me, and the tennis he played? Definitely the tennis pre-2008 Roger Federer played.
Of course, his opponent was neither an Andy Murray nor a Rafael Nadal. The opponent matters greatly, and Potito Starace, while amazingly and unspeakably drop-dead gorgeous, was no competition for him. Still, there are just some things on which the opponent has no bearing, and that is Roger's innate talent. No one, not even the Biggest Sampras Fan Eva, can ever deny that, when it comes to natural talent, this man has it in spades, more than anyone else. And no matter who's on the other side of the net, as long as he keeps playing the way he did today, 2009 will go down in history of tennis as the year in which a new Grand Slams record is set - by Roger Federer.
Oh I love him so much. It was an extremely unevenly-matched...well, match, and if it'd been anyone else, I'd have just watched maybe four games and go do something else. I didn't bother watching Murray beyond maybe two games, and most certainly didn't bother watching Nadal. Those two matches were also super short matches. Nadal's score was like, 6-0, 6-1 (the stupid Qatar Open site was still talking about Nadal getting a tough draw because of the Santoro guy he faced in the first round. WHATEVER) and even though the commentators were salivating over his "masterclass tennis" during Roger's match, I'd much rather do my readings than watch that. Lopsided matches tend to get really boring after a while and my brother was complaining that Roger's match was boring.
But because it was Roger, and because the tennis that he played far exceeded what I expected from him, it was absolutely wonderful. I did get a tad worried when he suddenly dropped the first two points when he was serving for the match, hence giving Starace his biggest lead on the Federer serve. One double fault, then a forehand unforced error, which looked a tad like the 2008 Roger. Thankfully he won the next four points and was considerate enough not to give his fans a heart attack. Some of Roger's service games were also over before I knew it - literally. I'd be talking to my brother, taking my attention off the match for maybe three seconds, and when I turn back to the match, Roger had already held on to his serve and it was Starace's serve.
I still can't get over how easy Roger makes it all look. Not just how he doesn't seem to sweat, ever, but how he just swings his arm and produces a winner. It's amazing. That's also why I couldn't help but feel damn insulted on his behalf when the (British? They sounded British) commentators compared Roger's down-the-line backhand winner to ANDY MURRAY'S, saying that Murray does that kind of shot really well, and how Roger's is pretty good, too. What the fuck? Talk about stating the obvious, and forgetting who you're talking about!
Okay, it's time to sleep. I'm very happy about his solid, brilliant start to the year, and even more so now, I can't wait for the Australian Open! If he's playing like this for some random Qatar Open's first round, imagine the kind of tennis he's going to play at the Australian Open. YAY! Excitingness.
I don't really care either way if he wins this tournament or not, to be honest. Only the Slams are important to me. It'd be nice for him to win the smaller stuff, but if he doesn't, that's fine - as long as he bags the big prizes. OMG, sixth consecutive US Open! If he does that, I would have come full circle! Haha.