Roger Federer now stands just one match away from the world #1 ranking. He will overtake Nadal if he reaches the semifinals in Rotterdam. Standing in his way is the Dutchman Robin Haase, who came away with the affection of the crowd if not the result last time they faced off. But who will win this clash between the legendary Federer and the home hope Haase?
Haase and Federer have met just twice in their careers, despite both being in their 30’s. However, such is Federer’s longevity that when he first ascended to the world #1 ranking in 2004, Haase had not even turned pro. Their first meeting did not come until 2012 in the Davis Cup World Group Playoffs with Switzerland looking to preserve their status. They were able to do just that led by Federer, who convincingly defeated Haase in straight sets in their singles rubber.
The pair also met last year in what was the biggest match of Haase’s career. The Dutchman had played some excellent tennis at the Rogers Cup in Montreal to reach the semifinal, the first of his career at Masters 1000 level, and was hoping to spring what would have been a huge upset on the recently crowned Wimbledon champion. It wasn’t to be for Haase though, as despite a fine effort, particularly in the second set Federer just had too much for him winning 6-3 7-6 to reach the final (lost to Zverev).
Path to the quarterfinals
Federer began his Rotterdam charge with a blistering win against Belgian Davis Cup stalwart Ruben Bemelmans. Bemelmans, the world #116 had come through the qualifiers, but was outclassed from start to finish during his brief stay in the main draw, losing 1-6 2-6 in just 47 minutes. Federer actually hit more winners than his opponent won points in that match. That set up a match with Philipp Kohlschreiber, who had lost the previous 12 encounters against the Swiss.
It was not to be 13th time lucky for the German in Rotterdam as Federer came through a testing two set encounter. He fought impressively in the first set, defying Federer and forcing a tiebreak. There he had his chances, but Federer is on a willing roll for a reason at the moment, and he just got it done in the big moments, winning it 10-8. Kohlschreiber then stuck to his task impressively in the second only to falter at the last and give away a late break and with it the match.
Haase began against his fellow Dutchman Thiemo De Bakker. De Bakker was once a regular in the top 100, but he’s lost his way on Tour of late and was well beaten by an impressively ruthless Haase who dropped just four games in a convincing win. Haase then faced another Dutchman, 21-year-old Tallon Griekspoor who had stunned Wawrinka in the previous round. But Haase had too much for his countryman, winning the first set 6-4 before running away with the second to love.
How do they match up?
The key to Federer’s later career success is his serve, which is unquestionably amongst the best on Tour. Last year he surpassed 10k career aces, which put him in rarefied company alongside the likes of Goran Ivanisevic and Ivo Karlovic. Though his serve is far from the biggest, it rarely gets up beyond the high 120’s, its accuracy is unparalleled. It so often allows Federer to get on top in the rally and provides him with a platform to put pressure on his opponents serve, as he is so hard to break.
Haase lacks a great match winning weapon like Federer’s serve, but he is equipped with impressive variety. He is comfortable executing a variety of game styles and is also a fine volleyer and was runner up at the 2013 Australian Open in the doubles. His serve is also an effective weapon when he is able to maintain a high first serve percentage, which will be absolutely crucial against Federer.
It will likely be a match of few opportunities for the Dutchman, so mistakes will have to be kept to a minimum. He would also do well to deny Federer rhythm by mixing up the pace and spin he gives him off the ground and by making as many forays to the net as he can. That being said, just constantly rushing the net will simply see him getting passed, so he must not overplay his hand in that regard. In truth, it will take the performance of his life to deny Federer here.
Haase won’t roll over in this match, and the crowd support will probably be slightly more even than Federer is used to. But at the moment nothing seems to be able to distract the great man from winning matches and its hard to see him falling at the final hurdle on his way to becoming world #1 again. Haase will give his best, but its unlikely to be enough to even earn him a set. Federer in straights.
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