Roger Federer continued a strong overall start to the 2014 season by defeating Tommy Haas 6-4, 6-4 on Wednesday in the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif.
The 17-time Grand Slam title winner improved to 13-3 against Haas head-to-head and will move on to face the formidable Kevin Anderson, who knocked off Federer's Swiss compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka en route to the quarterfinals.
In the top half of a draw littered with upsets, the seventh-seeded Federer was able to conquer the upstart No. 11 Haas. Erik Gudris of USA Today expressed some relief in suggesting Federer's win restored some balance to the men's tennis hierarchy:
The New York Times' Ben Rothenberg noted how Federer is now the highest remaining seed in the top half:
Both sets played out in similar fashion, with Federer breaking to take 3-2 leads in each one. However, Haas did break back at 3-3 in the first set, which put Federer in a precarious position. Like great champions often do in those moments of adversity, Federer broke back to go up 4-3 and held on from there to apply the pressure.
Federer wiped out the possibility of a comeback by breaking again in the second to go up 3-2. The experienced veterans still dueled at a world-class level, but Federer simply outplayed his outmatched opponent on this occasion.
Haas is a gritty competitor, and his loss wasn't for a lack of effort. Even when Federer was serving in the second set at 4-3, a stunning rally got Haas a point and a shot of momentum late in the match, per Tennis.com's Jonathan Scott:
Although he didn't go on to win the game, the 35-year-old Haas battled to hold serve and force Federer to hold one last time. That wasn't a problem for the entire evening, though, because Federer was on in his service games, winning 33 of 40 first-serve points and hitting 74 percent of his first serves in.
Despite Haas' own stellar efforts on serve, he was unable to mount any sort of charge. Federer's superior groundstrokes shined through, and he was simply too tough to beat.
This was a good sign for Federer, who has thrived under new coach Stefan Edberg and won his last tournament in Dubai—already giving Federer as many singles titles as he had in all of 2013. After that breakthrough, Federer shared a fitting text his father sent him on Twitter:
Since he's the highest seed remaining, there's a good chance Federer can go back-to-back.
Another triumph at Indian Wells would fortify the notion that Federer is not yet done with his prolific career. While other elites such as Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray have faltered at this tournament, Federer has remained steady and looks a lot healthier than he did last season.
A potential encounter with Novak Djokovic looms in the final. While it will be interesting to see how Federer fares there, it's a good bet he'll at least make it to that stage of this Masters event.