TENNIS: Roger Federer forced to dig deep against Malek Jaziri
Roger Federer believes his hard-fought win in last night’s opening round will help him successfully defend his Dubai title this week, writes James Alexander...
The world No.2 was pushed all the way by unheralded Tunisian, Malek Jaziri, before eventually winning in three sets, 5-7, 6-0, 6-2. And although he may have expected an easier first-up encounter against the world No.128, the Swiss claims a tough three-setter may not be such a bad thing.
“Ones like these I don’t mind,” he said.
“It wasn’t physical at all, rallies were fast, it wasn’t too long of a match. OK three sets but the second set was only six games. I think it was good in terms of nerves. Getting out there and having to survive difficult moments.”
For a while the packed Centre Court crowd at the Aviation Club thought the unimaginable was going to happen. And maybe for a fleeting second, even Federer himself may have thought his title defence wouldn’t go past the first round. But, as if embarrassed by his first set performance, the 17-time major winner flicked the switch and found his rhythm, playing to the level we’ve become so accustomed to over the years.
He totally dominated the second set, racing through it in just 23 minutes to draw level with the Tunisian. It wasn’t his best tennis, but it was more than good enough to put him in control. The final set wasn’t as one-sided, but it always looked as if victory would go the way of the
Both players held their serve until the sixth game, when Federer got the crucial break. And from there, he quickly completed the job. When the Swiss calls time on his illustrious career, he certainly won’t recall this clash in a hurry. But nevertheless, he did enough to book a ticket into the second round where he will play either Marcel Granollers or Albert Montanes.
Federer was full of praise for his opponent, saying: “The margins are small. Malek played a great opening set, made it difficult for myself. I struggled in the wind. But he had a big role to play in that.”
And he was also very relieved to have survived the surprising scare. “I’m happy I was able to turn it around, of course a big relief for me and I’m excited to get another chance here because it was looking not so good for a while,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Novak Djokovic, arguably Federer’s biggest threat in the singles draw, got his Dubai campaign off to a losing start as he lost in the doubles alongside his brother, Marko.