To no one's surprise, Roger Federer won his opening match of the 2014 BNP Paribas Open at Indian Hills after a first-round bye, winning 6-2, 7-6(5) over Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu.
As noted by Live Tennis, the Swiss legend is on the hunt for a fifth title at Indian Wells:
His four titles already represents the best showing of any player in the history of this tournament, with his last championship run coming two years ago when he ousted John Isner in 2012.
At first blush, it appeared Mathieu would be annihilated in straight sets after Federer took the first set 6-2 in just 22 minutes, as pointed out by Roger Federer Fans on Twitter:
#Federer takes the first set 6-2 over Mathieu in 22 minutes.— Roger Federer Fans (@Federer_Swiss) March 8, 2014
As shown by TennisTV, the four-time champ was razor sharp to open things up, hitting shot after shot that hugged the baseline:
It appeared the second set would be more of the same, but after going up 5-2, Federer faltered.
Mathieu won four straight games to go up 6-5 before Federer finally bounced back to win a game for himself to make it 6-6, sending the second set into a tiebreaker.
Neither player managed to build up a lead during the tiebreaker, as they went back and forth until Federer finally won 7-5 with two straight points. After breezing through the first set in 22 minutes, it took Federer over an hour to win the second set and advance into the third round.
For his efforts, he'll next take on Dmitry Tursonov in Round 3.
New York Times contributor Ben Rothenberg notes how Federer finished and who is looming in the fourth round:
Some late wobbles, but Roger Federer advances 6-2, 7-6(5) over Paul-Henri Mathieu. Haas looms in fourth round. #BNPPO14— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 9, 2014
Federer comes into this tournament on a hot streak, having won in Dubai last month and reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open. Tennis Channel analyst Justin Gimelstob has been impressed by his recent renewal in light of a healthier back.
"Roger looks sharper and fresher and is already more dynamic in 2014 than he was in 2013," Gimelstob said, via ESPN.com's Greg Garber. "Beating Djokovic, who he hasn't beaten in a while, was impressive. Roger has shown he's back in the conversation, and deservedly so."
It's likely Federer's days fighting for the No. 1 spot in the World Rankings is at an end, but he's still just as passionate about winning tournaments as he ever was.
Federer will _____ at Indian Wells in 2014.
"If I can’t play for World No. 1, I play for winning titles. It’s the trophy I care about the most," Federer said before the tournament began, as relayed by Erwin Ong of bnpparibas.com. "I’m really motivated to be playing here in Indian Wells. I’m just happy to see that the hard work is paying off."
It will be surprising if Federer doesn't continue advancing into the latter rounds—if not better. He's been playing outstanding tennis lately, which isn't really surprising considering his health is intact.
Winning an early-round match against a low-ranked player like Mathieu isn't cause for celebration, however. Federer is expected to compete for a title in every tournament he enters. The real tests for the Swiss champion will come in the quarterfinals and beyond.
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