World #1 and defending champion Roger Federer continues his quest for what would be a record breaking sixth Indian Wells crown against Serbia’s Filip Krajinovic. Krajinovic, no stranger to the big stage, had the finest moment of his career last year when he reached the final of the Paris Masters, coming to within a set of the title. He struggled for form early on this season but has found some of late. But will that be enough to help him secure what would be a seismic upset?
Federer and Krajinovic have yet to meet on Tour, which is perhaps unsurprising. Despite Krajinovic being ranked inside the top 30 at world #28, the 26-year-old has spent most of his career playing at Challenger-level. Indeed, he has just 28 match wins to his name. Those 28 wins, coupled with 36 losses, are the sum total of his Tour-level experience, and the final in Bercy was the only one he has competed in at Tour-level. That compares rather unfavourably with Federer’s 1145 match wins and 97 Tour-level titles.
Path to the second round
Federer, as top seed, received a bye into the second round, beginning his Indian Wells campaign against Federico Delbonis. The Argentine was the victor in their only previous match, which came five years ago in the Hamburg semifinals. Federer was then enduring some very poor form and proved a rather different proposition for Delbonis in the Californian desert. Delbonis acquitted himself respectably and held a set point in the second, but never really looked like winning as the Swiss came through 6-3 7-6.
Krajinovic, also seeded, received a bye into the second round where he faced Mitchell Krueger of the United States. Krueger, ranked outside the top 200, impressed by coming through the qualifiers, defeating Mirza Basic of Bosnia before defeating Alexander Bublik to reach the main draw. There he fought past the mercurial Frenchman Benoit Paire 6-4 1-6 6-4. But Krajinovic had far too much for the 24-year-old, dismissing him 6-2 6-2 to make the Indian Wells third round for the first time.
How do they match up?
Federer will, as ever, look to bring his brand of attacking tennis into the match. The Swiss’ greatest strengths are his serve and forehand, both of which, whilst not the most powerful, are incredibly accurate. Federer’s serve has also proven to be difficult to read over the course of his career, with arguably only perhaps the greatest returner of all time Novak Djokovic able to regularly read it with any consistency.
The improvement’s to Federer’s backhand are also worthy of note. Since his return to the Tour at the start of 2017 he has been playing with a larger racquet face, which allows him to hit through the ball more often without the fear of mishits. It is a change that has improved an already impressive arsenal. Federer is also an excellent volleyer, and his speed at moving into the forecourt to take advantage of that skill at the net has arguably been crucial to his late career success.
Krajinovic lacks weapons of the quality of Federer’s. The Serbian is a fine mover, however, and his groundstrokes are solid. He may also be aided by the slow and gritty surface in Indian Wells. Indeed, the hard courts at the tournament are amongst the slowest on Tour. Key to Krajinovic’s hopes will be maintaining a high first serve percentage and good depth on his groundstrokes. Deny Federer the chance to dictate as often as possible and Krajinovic may have the beginnings of a chance.
In Federer’s current form it will take a herculean performance to stop him and it doesn’t seem like Krajinovic has that performance in him going into their match. As in Federer’s previous match, it is unlikely to be a complete walkover, but it is also unlikely that Federer will be pushed too hard. He simply has too many weapons for Krajinovic and it’s hard to see how the Serbian can consistently cause Federer problems. The world #1 to win in straight sets.
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