The three-time Miami champion Roger Federer had the opportunity to play his first match at Hard Rock Stadium, 20 years after making Masters 1000 debut in Miami at the age of 17! The Swiss star suffered a defeat in the final at Indian Wells on Sunday against Dominic Thiem and had a shaky opener in Miami on Saturday, beating Radu Albot 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 after more than two hours.
Motivated to show his best against the player whom he admired a lot during the entire career, Albot was on fire in the opening two sets, breaking Roger in the very first game of the match and saving four break points in the game that followed to settle into a nice rhythm.
With no intentions of stepping back or allowing Roger to dictate the pace, the Moldovan did everything right until the closing stages of the second set, keeping the pressure on Federer who finally found the way to score a break at 6-5 and send the match into a decider.
There, the Swiss saved a break point in game seven and grabbed the crucial break in the next game, sealing the deal on his serve in game nine to avoid an upset and book the place in the third round where he will face Filip Krajinovic.
The Serb is currently ranked outside the top-100 after a poor 2018 dotted with injuries and he is on a comeback trail, losing in the fourth round at Indian Wells to Rafael Nadal and scoring two wins in Miami to set Federer clash on Monday.
Filip defeated Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Stan Wawrinka in the opening two matches, overcoming a 5-2 deficit in the deciding tie break against the Swiss to earn an important win and the opportunity for the third clash against Federer.
Roger and Filip played twice before last year, with Federer scoring two wins at Indian Wells and Basel, hoping for the third straight win on Monday and the place in the fourth round. The Indian Wells clash was one-sided although Krajinovic showed he could deal with Roger in Basel, taking a set before losing a tight decider, leaving Basel with positive notes and the confidence ahead of their next encounter.
It should be an exciting duel between two aggressive players and shotmakers who like to dictate the points, mix the things up and finish the points at the net. If Filip finds the way to tame the serve of his opponent and impose his strokes in the exchanges, he should deliver a brave resistance and fight for at least a set, boosting confidence after that thrilling win over Stan.
On the other hand, Federer has to make more damage on the return in comparison to that Albot match if he wants to stay away from troubles and notch more comfortable triumph. Last year at Indian Wells, Federer toppled the Serb 6-2, 6-1 in 58 minutes to reach the last 16 for the 12th time in the desert.
Both players needed some time to find the rhythm at the start of the match, with a rather slow and error-prone first four games. Roger shifted into a higher gear after that, though, leaving Filip far behind and playing rock-solid tennis on both serve and return to keep the pressure on the 25th seed all the time and notch an absolute triumph in their first meeting on the Tour.
Roger's aggression was once again an unsolved riddle for his opponent, keeping the ball on his racquet and using every opportunity to attack and finish the points on his own terms. He had 13 errors in the first four games, including five in the game when Filip broke him, settling into the zone after that and making just seven more mistakes by the end of the encounter, outplaying Krajinovic both in the serving department and from the field to seal the deal in less than an hour.
Filip certainly hoped for a better result after such a strong end of 2017 season and imposing himself as the top-30 player although he couldn't do much against such a strong rival, especially not without his serve and backhand.
The Serb could hit only four service winners, all in the closing stages of the match, and he sprayed 14 errors from the backhand wing that Roger successfully attacked. In fact, he hadn't made too many mistakes more than Roger (only five) but Federer had a huge advantage in the winners department, hitting a lot of unreturned serves and playing equally well from his forehand and backhand wing (committing only six errors from his backhand and had six direct points, often with a touchy drop shots).
The Swiss had a handful 18-4 lead in service winners and was untouchable in his games after that break he suffered, losing just three points in the rest of the match and holding at love five times to keep the tension on the other side of the net.
Without free points, Filip felt all the pressure in the world in his games and ended with 59% of the points lost on serve, getting broken five times from eight opportunities he gave to Roger. The Serb was just seven from 24 after missing the first serve and he couldn't hope for a better result with such poor numbers behind the initial shot.
Federer was the dominant figure from the field as well, covering the court nicely and keeping his backhand safe to shot 15 winners against only six from Krajinovic. The Serb had difficulties in controlling his backhand and finished with 13 unforced errors while Federer made just eight.
They both had 12 forced errors and that was the only segment of the match where Filip could keep the pace with the better-ranked opponent, although it wasn't enough to give him the more positive result. Krajinovic had the edge in the exchanges with nine or more strokes, winning seven out of nine but he was subdued in the more dynamic shorter rallies, losing 19 out of 25 in the mid-range points with five to eight shots and being completely outplayed in the shortest department up to four strokes where Roger ruled 41-18.
Besides those service winners, his initial groundstroke also did a lot of damage, opening the court and taking the time of Filip's shots to complete a dominant win and march on. In October, the eight-time Basel champion Roger Federer made a winning start at home event after a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 triumph over Filip Krajinovic in two hours and nine minutes.
Unlike that Indian Wells clash, Roger struggled much more to earn the win, losing a set in the opening round of Basel for the first time since 2008! Federer couldn't find the first serve in the entire match and had to play against 14 break points, the most in front of the home fans since 2000 and the encounter against Lleyton Hewitt.
Krajinovic converted four of those although it wasn't enough for the triumph, losing 46% of the points in his games and giving the serve away six times to end the journey in the opening round. The Swiss had 38 winners and the same number of unforced errors while Krajinovic stood on a 21-22 ratio, giving his best to match the rival's pace but losing serve twice from the eight break points he offered to Roger in the deciding set.
Federer served at only 37% in the opening set but won all 10 points after landing it in, struggling with the second serve and giving Filip two break points in the fourth game that he successfully defended to keep the serve intact.
On the other hand, the Serb also served below 50% and that affected his game to a much higher extension, offering Roger two break points and failing to save any in a 6-2 defeat. Krajinovic made a great start, losing just one point in the opening two service games and creating those break chances that could have pushed him in front in the fourth game.
The Swiss fended them off with service winners, bringing the game home and breaking Filip in the following game after a deep return that the Serb couldn't control. Four service winners sent Roger 4-2 up and he broke Krajinovic again in game seven to serve for the set in the following game.
An eight-time champion secured the opener with an ace for a 6-2 after just 30 minutes, taking full control in the second part of the set and hoping for more of the same in set number two as well. Carried by the momentum, Roger painted a return winner to open the second set with a break and confirmed the lead with four winners in game two for another big step towards the finish line.
Krajinovic finally held with ease in the third game to stop his downfall and create three break points in game six. Roger saved the first two with service winners before Filip found the way to convert the third with a volley winner, leveling the score at 3-3 for a little bit more drama.
The Serb was now back in the match, repelling another break point in the seventh game and creating a chance on the return in the next one, converting it after a poor forehand from Roger who got broken for the second time in a row, allowing Krajinovic to serve for the set!
Out of sudden, the Swiss excelled his game to break back at love with a backhand down the line winner, reducing the deficit to 5-4 and keeping chances of finishing the match in straight sets alive. Still, his serve just wasn't there in those moments and he suffered another break in game ten after a loose forehand to hand the set to his rival who became the first player who took a set away from Roger in the opening round of Basel since Bobby Reynolds in 2008!
Despite this setback, Federer stayed composed and broke in the third game of the final set to forge a lead, saving a break point in the next game and holding with an ace for a 3-1. A smash winner gave Roger another break point but Filip did well to erase it and stay within one break deficit.
That became even more significant when Roger hit a double fault to offer three break points at 3-2 but Krajinovic wasted them and missed a chance for another turnaround. Roger converted the fourth break point in the seventh game after a volley winner and served for the win to finally bring the match home.
Filip had other plans, though, breaking Roger for the fourth time to prolong the match and holding to cut the deficit to 5-4. Serving for the win for the second time, Federer held from 0-30 to cross the finish line and move into the second round where he faced Jan-Lennard Struff.